Attack of the Agitated Owl

Too close for comfort?

If you hike and trail run frequently this time of year,  you may feel the wrath (but hopefully not the talons) of an overly protective barred owl. Now most folks are worried about not-so-friendly encounters with bears, mountains lions, rattlesnakes and other assorted critters. Fair enough. But it’s those owls that worry me and you may want to keep a watchful eye for them on your spring journeys.
My first aggressive owls attack occurred a few years ago around this time of year. I was on a short trail run in Alice Lake Provincial Park just north of Squamish, British Columbia, when a large barred owl flew onto a nearby limb. Gorgeous creature indeed. I stopped my stride to photograph him with my small point-and-shoot. I Watched him for a while-tried to focus on him- (her actually) when suddenly she swooped down at me! Yikes! I have heard of this happening to other hapless hikers. But now it was involving me!

Heed this warning!

I immediately started running down the forested trail. My agitated owl “friend” swooped down at me a couple of more times. I start running faster- and that blasted owl kept flying down the trail at me. I picked up a stick and started singing at it as I ran. This would have made good video coverage- a crazy Italian trail runner lancing at the air with an alder limb and cussing at a bird!
After about a third of a mile or so, the owl let me go! It was exhilarating and a bit unnerving. Ironically, there are bears and cougars in this park and I was out on an evening run all alone. I was more concerned about the big beasties, but it was an owl that got me! Trust me- her chicks have nothing to worry about-I will not be returning this spring to look for them! And when you see a trailhead sign warning of an aggressive owl. Heed it and go for a hike or run in a much safer area-one with just bears, cougars, and rattlesnakes!


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  1. Matt Kite on March 7, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Welcome to the club, Craig! I’ve had two fly-by encounters now (one in Port Townsend and one in Tacoma). I even lost my hat to an especially enterprising owl:

    I’ve always associated such occasions with fall, since that’s when mine (and others I’ve heard about) occurred. Now I have to worry about spring, too?

    Happy trails…

    • Administrator on March 9, 2016 at 9:26 am

      Hey Matt-good reason to wear a hat-protect the noggin! I always find the aggressive owls during the spring nesting season. Fall, uh? Late brood?

      • Matt Kite on March 12, 2016 at 10:12 am

        I Googled “barred owl attack” and found several entertaining stories. Sounds like they can be territorial in fall when they’re setting up shop for the winter. Read one story that included a bit about a guy wearing a hard hat to work; it did the trick ;).

        • Administrator on March 12, 2016 at 7:56 pm

          Great-I have to run with a hard hat now!

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