Okay, gang, time to harness your mental powers. We have a murder mystery on our hands, and birding may be involved.
Xena, a venerable toy poodle belonging to my stepmother, was killed last night in the yard. My folks are stumped as to what species the murderer is, and are suspecting a raptor.
(A moment of silence for Xena, before we continue--toy poodles are perhaps dogs only by technicality, but it's still sad, and my sympathy to Mavis.)
Now, the facts...
The victim: Toy poodle, female, 22lbs. She was in full rigor when found, placing time of death between 2 and 4 AM. (Yes. My stepmother notices things like this. If she hadn't broken her right hand a week ago, we'd have a full autopsy to go with the report.) It was full or near-full dark, the sun wasn't up yet.
There were two large puncture wounds on either side of the neck. The poodle was...sigh...in the act of crapping when she expired, which my father suspects might have presented a view from above much like a crouching rabbit.
The crime scene: The yard is surrounded by a 4 1/2 foot tall fence, placed atop an additional foot of burm. Dogs do occasionally jump in to kill the chickens, but dogs tend to make an unholy mess when they're on a killing spree. Xena was not savaged, and was located on dirt that had been freshly turned and was not disturbed.
My father's house is located out in the semi-suburbs in the middle of the desert in Arizona, home to all kinds of wild beasties.
Facts of note:
The body wasn't eaten.
The dog didn't bark, indicating that she was killed instantly, as she usually barks to summon the rest of the pack (more poodles and a pair of mini-schnauzers) who displayed no agitation during the night time. (Yes, yes, the strange case of the dogs in the nighttime...)
So. The question Dad & Mavis have is--could this have been an owl? Presumably a BIG owl, great horned or thereabouts, who dropped on the dog, killed it pretty much on impact, tried to grab it on the sides of the neck, and then found itself unable to carry such a hefty beast off and left? Does this square with normal owl behavior?
Are there any other possible culprits?
If you have any other questions, Dad'll be following the blog, I'm sure, and will probably be able to answer them....
ETA: We have confirmation! Double-checking, and a trip by Dad to the local library, indicates that there were TWO puncture marks on one side of the neck, and one on the other, which is apparently a Great Horned Owl modus operandi. (The owl grabs with one foot, using one claw as a "thumb.") Dad speculates that the owl killed the dog, then was startled off by the neighbor dog or something.
He thanks y'all for the help and insight, which confirmed his suspicions that there's owls in them thar hills.