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Aggressive Owls Swooping Down on Hikers at Kirkland, Sammamish Parks

Parts of Soaring Eagle Park's trails remain closed after several people were attacked by an aggressive owl, and there was a similar incident at Bridle Trails State Park near Kirkland over the weekend.

A section of trail in Soaring Eagle Park near Sammamish remains closed after a number of reports of attacks by an aggressive owl, and KING5 reports that a woman was attacked on Bridle Trails State Park near Kirkland last weekend.

While no one has been seriously injured, it's not the first time such attack have been reported. The birds are likely barred owls, which can be aggressive in defending their territory. Warning signs were posted a few years ago at Saint Edward State Park near Kirkland after similar incidents.

KING5 interviewed Celina Calado, who was walking a trail in Bridle Trails State Park when she was attacked.

"It felt like a sharp tearing, stinging, feeling in the back," she said. "He grabbed both sides of my pony tail with his claw."

The owl then flew away to a tree. Calado said she was bleeding from scratches to her head and went to the emergency room.

Bridle Trails State Park Ranger Mary Welborn said there have been a few such incidents and they are concerning visitors. "People have been clawed enough to draw blood," she said.

With at least a half dozen attacks, parts of Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish are now closed to the public.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife believes the owls responsible are young ones that have just left their mother's nest and are territorial about their new nesting spot. People appear as threats.

Katy Terry, assistant division director of King County Parks and Recreation Division, told Soaring Eagle Park park visitor Joy Miller in an email that the trail closure is likely to be short and responded to several of her quetions.

  • Will the County be relocating the owls? and how soon?
There are no plans to relocate the owl(s). We contacted the Department of Fish and Wildlife after the first report of an aggressive owl. They believe this behavior is temporary and should resolve itself shortly - especially with the onset of colder weather. The Department of Fish and Wildlife have a great website that provides additional information on how to avoid conflict with owls. The information can be found at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/owls.html#conflicts. Will the County be relocating the owls? and how soon?
  • Is it really closed? As I've seen horse trailers and people using it anyway.

A portion of the trail is closed and signage is posted at all park entrances as well as signage along the trail.

  • When will the area be open again? Is it still usable?

The safety of all park and trail users is very important to us. The trail closure is temporary and we anticipate reopening the trail in the near future. Once the trail reopens, signage will be removed.

  • ¬†How do you fend off birds? For other wildlife I use bells.

Again, I would encourage you to visit the website listed below for ways to prevent owl attacks. Yelling, clapping hands, and banging cans together are all effective when an owl is seen nearby. Bells could work as well. For more information, please visit the web site at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/owls.html#conflicts.

King5 reported that the Department of Fish and Wildlife said it believes the suspect owls are likely young adult barred owls staking out new territory, and that they may be attracted to pony tails on women or to headphones.

Another good idea is to wear a hat while hiking in areas where owls are known to be present.

Shaun Ivory November 11, 2012 at 12:56 AM
It could be worse! http://i.imgur.com/zxZpw.jpg
Local Guy November 11, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Sigh... Can I hide this story from my wife? Otherwise, I foresee a few evening walks in store...
Local Guy November 11, 2012 at 11:05 PM
crazy photo Shaun, but sadly, that hawks is probably taking a knife into a gun fight...

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