‘Aggressive’ owl keeps terrorizing people and stealing their hats at Washington park

An “aggressive and territorial” owl has been prowling around a Washington park, swooping in on people, stealing their hats and scratching them, park officials said.

Now people are being warned to stay away from parts of South Whidbey Community Park in Langley, the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District said in a March 27 Facebook post.

Please avoid the trails in the areas indicated in red below. We can assume that owls are ranging outside this area, and you should too,” park officials said.

Between eight and 10 people have encountered the animal, recreation supervisor Carrie Monforte told McClatchy News. They said they thought it was a barred owl.

During these encounters, the owl has swooped over people and grabbed their hats and hair, which caused scratches and bruising, Monforte said.

If someone chooses to go to the park, officials advise using an umbrella, keeping your head covered and protecting your eyes and small animals.

Why do owls act aggressive?

Park officials said the owl is likely trying to protect its nest and babies.

And acting territorial isn’t uncommon for owls, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Jennifer Becar told McClatchy News by email.

“Owls may act territorial in response to perceived disturbances near their nesting sites and within their territories,” she said.

Owls begin mating and nesting during the spring so this type of behavior can happen more often this time of year, Becar said.

Usually the owl is a barred owl or a great horned owl, she said.

What to do if an owl swoops toward you

If an owl swoops toward a person or tries to attack them, Becar said the best thing to do is to begin waving your arms and to protect your head and face.

Then leave the area, she said.

Owl attacks are rare though, Becar said. Usually the animal will hoot before attacking to warn someone who is getting to close to their territory.

“If runners, hikers or others hear hooting, they should be aware, cover their head, and try to move along quickly,” Becar said.

Anyone who runs into an aggressive owl can report it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife by calling 877-933-9847. An online report can be made, too.

Langley is on Whidbey Island, about 35 miles north of Seattle.

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