New Brunswick

'My husband was hitting to kill': Dog survives eagle attack

A large eagle swooped down and attacked Sonia Doucet-Daigle's small dog on the weekend. She kicked the bird and her husband struck it with a shovel five times before they were able to free their pet.

New Brunswick woman warns pet owners about bird preying on small animals for food

This dog named Samson was attacked by an eagle on the weekend, just outside his owner's house in Beresford, N.B. (Rafferty Baker CBC / Sonia Doucet-Daigle)

Sonia Doucet-Daigle knew something was wrong when she heard faint cries coming from outside her home.

At about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, the Beresford woman let her 12-year-old dog Samson out of the house.

Just as Doucet-Daigle turned her head to start the dryer, the 6½-pound Bichon Frise-Pomeranian was attacked by a large eagle.

"I just heard him scream," Doucet–Daigle said in an interview from her home in Gloucester County. "I knew right away something was wrong."

She rushed out into the pitch black night, knowing her dog had no way of defending himself.

"I could just see Samson's eyes," she said. "He was covered by an animal."

At first she thought the animal was a lynx, and she kicked at it.

"I remember thinking, 'This is a huge cat.' I didn't even care for my own safety."

Bird hunting its prey

Samson's owner is warning pet owners to keep their animals inside while the bird is around. (Sonia Doucet-Daigle)

But when she got a little closer, she realized the animal was a large, black eagle, about 1.2 metres with its wings spread open.

The bird was attacking Samson for food, she said.

He would've flown away with my dog and I wasn't going to let that happen.- Sonia Doucet-Daigle

"I punched him maybe 10, 20 times," she said. "I didn't want to waste a moment."

But the bird wouldn't let go.

Doucet-Daigle then called out to her husband, Gilles Daigle, who quickly grabbed a shovel and hit the bird about five times.

That gave Doucet-Daigle enough time to grab Samson, ripping a patch of skin from his head as she did.

"My husband was hitting to kill," she said. "It took a lot. He [the bird] still had Samson in his claws."

Doucet-Daigle said the eagle was likely injured in the attack, which lasted about 30 seconds.

"He would've flown away with my dog and I wasn't going to let that happen," she said.

The attack wounds

When Sonia Doucet-Daigle tried to pull Samson out of the eagle's clutch, a patch of skin ripped from his scalp. (Sonia Doucet-Daigle)

Samson suffered seven puncture wounds on one side, a bloody eye and ear, and a large bite inside his mouth. He lost several teeth and some skin from the top of his head.

On Monday morning, Doucet-Daigle took him to the vet, where she was told the wounds could affect his vital organs.

She was worried Samson wouldn't make it, but after the antibiotics kicked in and with a lot of extra sleep, the dog is returning to his old self.

"Yesterday his tail started to wag and he's getting some life in him again," Doucet-Daigle said.

Another survivor

Matt Richard's dog Bella was also attacked by an eagle in Beresford. (Matt Richard)

This isn't the first attack in the area. Matt Richard shared a Facebook post on Monday about his dog Bella surviving an attack by an eagle.

Barry Rothfuss, executive director of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute near Sackville, said eagles are big predators, and  aggressive behaviour is not uncommon at this time of year.

Food sources are scarce because the ground is still covered in snow.

"They're not going to delineate between an animal with or without a collar on them," Rothfuss said. "As terrible as it sounds, they're just behaving normally."

Following the food

Eagles are also nesting this time of year and pet owners need to be careful when letting cats and dogs outside.

"They're opportunists," he said of the raptors. "They go where the food is."

Doucet-Daigle, who reported the incident to the RCMP, has been warning other pet owners to keep their animals inside and avoid leaving them alone until the bird is captured or destroyed.

"At this point it's a danger," she said. "It's a very ferocious bird and it's hunting."

Now when Samson has to go outside, the dog is never alone.

Doucet-Daigle dresses him in a bright orange outfit to discourage another attack, and she accompanies him with a hammer in hand. 

"I'm even scared for my own safety," she said.