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Will a Turkey Vulture Attack My Small Cat or Dog?

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This article will break down why you don't need to worry about turkey vultures attacking your pets.

This article will break down why you don't need to worry about turkey vultures attacking your pets.

Will a Turkey Vulture Attack Your Pet?

I was worried about this. We have four dogs, three of them quite small. I knew we had turkey vultures around our house because I've seen them sitting on our neighbor's roof, so I always kept an eye on our dogs while they were outside.

A few days ago, I saw six of them circling around our neighborhood, diving and swooping. It made me worried, so I did some research.

Turkey Vultures Aren't Interested in Our Pets

It turns out that our American turkey vultures aren't interested in our pets at all—or in our kids, either, for that matter. They probably wouldn't even eat a dead dog or cat that's on the road.

If Turkey Vultures Don't Eat Pets, What Do They Eat?

I also found it very interesting that North American turkey vultures have a very keen sense of smell, while African and Asian vultures cannot smell anything. So when North American turkey vultures are looking for food, they can use both their keen eyesight and their smell.

  • They prefer to eat herbivores, not carnivores or omnivores—in other words, they eat animals that eat plants, not meat.
  • They'll even eat some vegetation.
  • They won't go after anything that is moving, only animals that are lying still and appear to be dead.
  • Our North American turkey vultures will turn their nose up at meat that is rotten if they can find meat that is fresh.
  • However, if an animal has a tough hide, they do need to wait a few days until the hide has softened up enough for their weak beaks to penetrate it.
  • They don't look for food at night, either. They have very poor vision at night.
Are These Birds a Threat to Your Pets?

Are These Birds a Threat to Your Pets?

Are Those Circling Turkey Vultures Circling a Dead Animal?

Possibly. Or they could be playing, searching for food, or gaining altitude for a long flight. Turkey vultures will notice other vultures circling and flock to the area. If a large, dead animal has been spotted, they may wait until there are enough birds to dispose of the carcass in a timely manner before descending (yuck!).

Other Facts About North American Turkey Vultures

  • They are attracted to the scent of mercaptan, the gas produced by the beginnings of decay. This was discovered when the gas was used (don't know if it still is) by a gas company to find leaks in their gas lines. The company found that turkey vultures gathered where the mercaptan leaked out.
  • Male and female turkey vultures look alike.
  • Vulture poop is actually a sanitizer that is supposed to kill most bacteria and viruses.
  • They are 25 to 32 inches tall.
  • They have a wingspan of about six feet!
  • They're usually quiet, but when feeding or at their nest, they will hiss or grunt.
  • They are not aggressive.
  • They are the most common and widespread vulture in the United States.
  • At night, they often gather in large roosts. Their "nests" aren't actual nests, but rather indentations in the soil. They don't nest in trees.
  • They'll also put their eggs in a crevice in rocks, hollow tree, or fallen hollow log.


paul on August 30, 2020:

Turkey vulture swooped down into my backyard pool and took our two year old child but luckily he had just eaten two corndogs and was a lil heavier than normal. The vulture only made it 3 houses down and dropped lil Vinny in another neighbors pool. His lil floaties saved his life!

Kalyani on January 28, 2020:

Thanks for your information. It took my one week of anxiety. I was deeply worried and not letting my little furry friend for a week now after witnessing the same what you saw.

ROZ Behan on January 20, 2020:

Thank you for this article because we were really worried about our small dogs

Kiesha on January 14, 2019:

Yesterday I witnessed turkey vultures devouring a dead cat. It only took a couple of hours to clean it out.

Tammy on May 02, 2018:

We live on the farm and there was turkey buzzards sitting one on top of the barn and the other one was inside the barn and I have a horse will it attack my horse I don't know if they have babies in the barn do they nest in Barns

I live in an apartment which apparently has turkey vulture nests on the roof. They have put some stakes out so the vultures won't land. Maybe it makes things worse as last week, at least four turkey on July 17, 2017:

Quite terrifying as these vultures are big and when looking them up on the net, saw they ate anything not moving. They've been known to eat newly born calves since they can't get up and even their mothers, who are big, but can't get up after childbirth.

When complaining about them, a neighbor said 'all God's children, Jane' . Wonder if they're from God. Probably are but need to move as they actually make me sick as in vomiting. Also now have hypertension, uncontrolled. A friend who looked them up on the internet suggested I move to a hotel until I could find another home or apartment, townhouse, house, whatever.

Actually, there are more difficulties with this apartment complex (which they define as a luxury apartment). Have had carpenter ants and carpet beetles besides the turkey vultures which their mites actually got into my lower legs when I was dipping them into the pool--not clean.

Think if I were any of you, would take the turkey vultures as a threat. They're protected as a species but the DNR should be able to help. Not so here, but perhaps not explained as well as could be. When I mentioned the CDC should be involved as the turkey mites got into my legs (and needed lots of antibiotic treatment), the apartment put up the spikes I spoke of. It looks a bit like Alcatraz on my balcony. Don't want that either.

I'll just move and stop complaining but those of you who can't move, ue to roots or kids in school or mortgages, think you should go to your local university and check for Turkey v8lt8re mites if you get a resh. My apartment is probably full of blank mold, also, which I need to check out.

This was once a very nice apartment complex but since the recent owner took over, it's not.

Pam on June 24, 2017:

Turkey Buzzard killed my kitten yesterday, we seen it.

Stella on June 07, 2017:

Thanks K !!!! People are sometimes so ignorant!!! They constantly assume crap! Turkey buzzards are awesome!!! Where would we be without them? I live in The Woodlands, Tx. And we have a huge amount of them. I love to see them congregating in the Cypress trees on my evening walks. They're so quiet and not at all intimidating. I LOVE BUZZARDS!!!!

Robert on May 26, 2017:

Will they eat lunch meat ?

Kim on January 18, 2017:

Recently there were rats found in two of my neighbor's garages. We have Turkey Vultures and have seen them carry off a rat and they have carried off 3 out of 6 baby ducklings. I saw one being carried off while it was letting out this horrible sound, I will never forget it. We are from So. FL.. So I am sitting in my yard yesterday when out of the blue this turkey vulture comes over my yard and next thing you know there are 2 then a 3rd. I have Chihuahuas and they swooped down over us and I went into a panic and ran them into the house. They were so close I even saw their heads, so I looked up the pics. and they are definitely Turkey Vultures. Now I have to figure out a way to take my dogs out. I am petrified and feel these birds think my dogs are probably rats as well as being their next meal. A friend of mine who is familiar with these birds said they pick sm. animals up and drop them, then they eat them. Two of my Chihuahuas are very small, 4 and 5 lbs.. You have to live the experience to know it's true, they attack and eat small animals even if they are still alive. So if you want to believe these experts, do that, while they are tearing into your pet and eating them right in front of your face.

dave on November 25, 2016:

I've had them in my yard going after my cat. My wife was chasing them around the yard with a frying pan when I pulled up. Luckily I had the 357 magnum close by and after one shot they left promptly.

sal on August 24, 2016:


whoknows on August 19, 2016:

so typical of people - so assured they are of the ignorant "knowledge" they purport

tess_i_am48 on May 29, 2016:

Turkey vultures are harmless. I think the "attacks" or "swooping" were other vultures.

K on September 08, 2015:

In addition, owls will NOT "take" your little dogs. So incredibly silly and uneducated I can't even..... Yeah these comments not only make me sad but realize my job as an educator is very essential.

Unfortunately VERY essential.

K on September 08, 2015:

And these posters blaming turkey vultures for killing live animals need to get their story straight... BLACK vultures can kill live calves, NOT turkey vultures. Can you people even get the species correct before you malign them? Such ignorance.

K on September 08, 2015:

I see a ton of uneducated comments on here. Turkey vultures WILL NOT kill your dogs, cats OR children. It is physiologically impossible, they aren't built for it! They lack grip strength in their "chicken feet" and aren't technically even raptors! It's sad to read such ignorant comments, knowing that if vultures were more attracting people wouldn't be so scared of them.

Ally on July 09, 2015:

Turkey buzzards killed my friends cat and ate it, just days after she was spayed. I call bs on they don't kill live pets because it happens here in FL.

keith on April 04, 2015:

I have to disagree today it is early spring in southeast Ohio. I was in my yard with my niece while she was playing not more that 5 feet away from me I saw a flock of 5 turkey vultures over my neighbors house. I told my 3yr old niece to look at them and explained what they were. I kept an eye on one as it slowly moved to circling my house and then above us. It slowly kept dropping altitude as I sat still and watched to my surprise it dove down on my niece but stopped short and pulled up when I jumped up from the table I was sitting at. Disaster was averted and it moved on but I couldn't help but wonder what if I was further away. So please don't tell people that they will not attack a child or a pet because even though this isn't the norm it does happen.

al on November 10, 2014:

i don't think so,we havethem all over my town in ca. and they only seem to scavenge ospreys and hawks are different the reason this bird has a bald head is because when it sticks its head into a dead animal to eat,the feathers are not matted with dried blood but the feathers around their neck get crispy with dried blood making them look spikey and stiff,i know for a fact they don't kill live animals they have terrible vision and rely on smell they are also lumbering and slow those must be some demented turkey vultures you got there in texas....but anythings possible i guess.

Tim on September 25, 2014:

As a wildlife park manager I had several rehabilitated Turkey Vultures in my care. Out of all the animals in the park including bears and cougars, the turkey vultures were the only ones that bit me when I went to feed them. It all depended upon there mood. So I guess it all depends on what mood your turkey vulture is in when Fluffy goes out to play.

By the way. It hurt.

chris on September 16, 2013:

These things killed/ripped up to pieces then ate my young cat. I'm gonna kill them.

Doglover71 on March 22, 2013:

I live in S Texas. The turkey vultures are all over the place. I deer was hit by a car and landed next door. I never knew so many could all fit into 4 trees. They are considered migratory and protected as such. However we have small dogs. 9lb,12lb, and 25lb. While I haven't seem them go after my sheltie, which looks larger with all his fur, they have definitely "buzzed" my smaller ones. All natives of the area said yes, vultures will take your small animal. No one has been allowed to shoot them for a long time. They say because of this there is not enough road kill and they have gone after bigger animals like newborn goats or calves so the ranchers have gotten special permits to shoot (at least, whether they hit them or not?) to keep them from killing their animals. They are also not afraid because of the ban so sit on my house and the chimneys of the neighbors. Owls will also take the small dogs, so we take the dogs out with a baseball bat. I'm told the people in California take gulf clubs :) I don't care what the books say. The vultures don't read.

Kailey on August 31, 2012:

I see turkey vultures as low as my house I have 2 small dogs under 10 pounds will the turkey vulture pick up my dogs?

Lorna Doone (author) on January 27, 2011:

I don't doubt it. I guess I meant was that information shows that you don't have to worry about your 'live' pets. I plan to bury mine when the pass :)

Lorna Doone (author) on January 26, 2011:

Yup, osprey will prey on live animals. Although dogs aren't specified, I'm not surprised that it had it's eyes on your dog. So glad that you were there to save him/her!

Chris on January 26, 2011:

Schnitt, I was out in my back-yard, which is marsh-front, with my 13 lb. Jack Russell last month. An osprey came gliding over and alighted on our chimney, and sat there looking down. I kept my eye on it, fortunately,because it suddenly dropped into a glide heading right for the dog,talons out. Had I not been there to shout it off, tragedy would have ensued. It came within six feet before aborting the attack... The dog remained oblivious to the whole thing. Chris in Charleston,SC