Owls attack! People being 'swooped' in Seattle-area parks

Nov 9, 2012

Barred owls have been swooping down on people in Seattle-area parks.

A ranger at Bridle Trails State Park in Kirkland, Mary Welborn, says people have been clawed enough to draw blood in a handful of incidents.

King County has closed parts of the Soaring Eagle regional park in Sammamish because of similar attacks.

The state Fish and Wildlife Department told KING the owls are young ones that are territorial about new nesting spots.

“It felt like a sharp tearing, stinging, feeling in the back,” Celina Calado told KING. She been attacked on Bridle Trail near Kirkland. 
“He grabbed both sides of my pony tail with his claw.”

The owl eventually let go and flew up in a tree. Calado was bleeding and went to the emergency room for treatment for scratches on her head.

Rangers say the owls seem to target people wearing head phones and women wearing their hair in pony tails.

Video: Just how fast can the attack be?

Owl attacks are nothing new in the Northwest.

This is a first-person account of a problem owl in West Seattle published in the West Seattle Blog last year:

I’ve been attacked by an owl on Bonair 4 times over the past few weeks. The first time was a flyover; the next time he took my wool hat off my head; the next time I wore a construction hard hat and heard a thunk. The owl was stunned after the collision and flew off. The next day, Friday the 28th, I wore the hard hat and brought a flash light. The owl came from his usual perch and I happened to turn and shine the light on him. He put on the brakes and flew away; it’s a pretty big owl. All the attacks occur at dawn on my way to work out on the Alki stairs. Is this a crazy owl or what! I see I’m not alone. This could get serious so what should be done?

Here’s what the Seattle Audubon Society says about “dive-bombing owls”:

Most aggressive behavior from owls (barred owls and great horned owls are the most often reported) is motivated by defense of their territory or young, or their search for handouts.

In winter owls establish territories, build nests, and rear young. During this period, adult birds may engage in belligerent behavior, such as attacking creatures many times their size. In this case, the owls are simply trying to protect their homes, their mates, or their young.

When possible, stay away from nesting areas with aggressive birds until the young are flying (three to four weeks after eggs hatch) and the parents are no longer so protective. If you must walk past a nest, wave your arms slowly overhead to keep the birds at a distance. Other protective actions include wearing a hat or helmet, or carrying an umbrella.

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