Gizmo RV Roof MascotAll of you that have been with us since the inception of RV may remember our constant companion at the shop and shows during those start-up days: Gizmo the Chihuahua. Although Gizmo had not been “on the road” in several years, in those early days he charmed everyone he met. Small even for a chihuahua, Gizmo was the greatest little guy. We all here at RV are saddened to lose him after 9 years.

This sad event brings up an issue that perhaps a lot of RVers do not have on their radar: the danger to our beloved pets posed by predators. We think Gizmo was taken from his favorite early morning spot on the backyard patio by a bobcat. Yes, in a densely populated housing area, a bobcat was filmed in our neighborhood. Florida is being developed at an unprecedented rate and our wild animals are forced go somewhere and often that “somewhere” is a backyard or your favorite RV park.

What are some of the predators that are a danger to the pets of Florida RVers? Alligators are the classic Florida predator. The “gator” is part of the Florida identity. They are found in marshes, lakes, canals, rivers, and swamps. So where are RV parks located? You guessed it! Alligators aren’t the only ones who love the water. Normally people are not the typical prey of alligators, but don’t push it – they will eat you! But pets are very attractive prey for alligators. Keep Fido or Kitty at least 20 feet from fresh water. FWC recommends that you keep your pets on a leash and away from fresh water especially at dawn or dusk when the reptiles are most active. Avoid swimming with your pet: dog splashing is an alligator magnet. If your pet is attacked, weigh your options carefully. One of the most recent human deaths caused by an alligator attack was a woman who was attempting to rescue her dog.

Bobcats and coyotes have become an increasing threat to pets in Florida. Development has pushed these two predators to look for food in any place they can find it. RV parks are an ideal hunting ground with small pets, outdoor food prep, and accessible garbage (kudos to RV parks that have bear and animal proof trash cans!). Protect your small pets by not leaving them outside unattended. Feed them inside. Do not become complacent by placing them in small wire corrals. These corrals may keep your pet from roaming but are only a quick jump in and out for a bobcat or coyote.

Birds of prey such as owls, the larger hawks, eagles, and osprey are another threat to our small pets. Try to never leave your small dog or kitty unattended. Don’t be under an umbrella, tree, or porch: the bird must see you from the air! Any pet corrals or runs should be covered. Be alert if you hear or see bird of prey activity: scoop up Fido or Kitty in your arms. These birds become extremely focused when hunting and may fly right to their target even in your presence.

Pythons should be on your watch list if you are RVing in south Florida: small mammals (pets included) are their primary food source. Another south Florida invasive species is the green iguana. These reptiles can grow up to 5 feet. They are plant eaters, but when cornered iguanas can injure a small pet with their sharp teeth, claws, or tail. Some experts have warned that iguanas carry botulism and salmonella which can be harmful and even deadly to your pet… and you. Avoid letting your pets catch and eat these reptiles.

Finally, we should make mention of Florida’s black bears and poisonous snakes. The Florida black bear can kill and maim your pet and you, but these attacks are rare and usually involve bears habituated to humans or surprised near a food source or cubs. Most black bears will retreat from humans and dogs. Keep your pet on a leash in high bear areas. Dogs will often smell bears before you see them: watch your dog’s behavior. A barking, charging dog may often anger an eating bear: feed your pet in your RV or camper. Pet food is a major attraction for bears. If you and your pet encounter a bear, retreat slowly and calmly: don’t run! If needed, yell and use anything handy to make a loud noise such as pots and pans.

Most of Florida’s venomous snakes will also attempt to avoid encounters with humans and pets. Unfortunately, the natural hunting instinct of cats and dogs is what usually brings them into contact with snakes. This cannot be avoided, but only limited by not allowing pets to roam, keeping the pet on a leash (a short leash) in known snake areas, and keeping your pets’ area free of food and debris. There are trainers who work with dogs to teach snake avoidance, but that may beyond most of us. Never let your pet play with dead snakes: the venom is still potent and can be ingested by your pet with deadly results.

We hope these hints will help keep your fur baby safe and sound. Traveling with pets is an enjoyable part of the RV life. We know we loved sharing it with Gizmo for many years.

So, until next time: travel safe and travel dry with RV!