If you’ve ever witnessed a hawk hunting prey, whether in person or on video, you know that its powerful talons and sharp beak are a force to be reckoned with. But what if you were to become the prey? In this article, we’ll talk about what to do if a hawk attacks you and what circumstances might prompt this attack in the first place.
What You'll Learn Today
Why Would a Hawk Attack a Human?
Firstly, it’s important to understand that, though hawk attacks on humans do occasionally happen, they don’t happen as often as you might think.
For one thing, most hawks tend to avoid humans. They rarely get close enough to be seen, much less to attack.
What’s more, humans are rarely able to get this close to hawks because hawks are so elusive. They tend to build their nests and stake out their territories far from the areas most frequented by humans.
That said, more and more hawks are being forced closer to urban areas, and so in some regions, hawks and humans are having to learn how to coexist. This can lead to some serious tension when territories overlap.
Hawks try to avoid humans, but they will not hesitate to attack if you broach their territory. They can be especially aggressive if you get too close to their nest during nesting season, as they are highly protective of their eggs and young.
If you ever get close enough to see a hawk’s nest, it’s best to keep your distance. These nests are usually in locations you couldn’t get close to, but anytime you come across a large nest and are close enough to inspect it, you are probably too close and should leave the area.
Check out this video for an example of what can happen if you get too close to a hawk’s nest:
The good news is that hawk attacks are rare and are almost never deadly. They can cause injuries of course, as seen in the video, and these injuries should be treated medically to prevent complications such as infection, but the injuries themselves are not lethal to humans.
Can You Kill a Hawk if it Attacks You?
This is a tricky subject, but the short answer is no.
Hawks are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MTBA), which has been in effect since 1918. Under this act, you can’t hunt, kill, shoot, poison, or even capture a hawk without receiving federal permission.
Some states also have separate laws protecting hawks, so even if you were to get federal permission, you would also have to get permission from the state as well.
Of course, during an active hawk attack, there’s no opportunity to go about getting this special permission.
If you accidentally kill a hawk that is attacking you, there is always a chance that it may be seen as an act of self-defense. That said, you may still be subject to fines.
The fines for violating the MBTA range from $5,000 to $15,000 and can include up to 6 months in prison. While the strictest penalties probably won’t apply in cases of self-defense, it’s still best to avoid killing or injuring the hawk if possible.
Which begs the question:
How Do You Stop a Hawk from Attacking You?
Obviously, the best way to avoid any trouble with hawks is to avoid getting attacked in the first place. But how do you do that?
Let’s take a look at some tips for preventing a hawk attack, as well as how to stop an attack in progress.
- Avoid hawk territory: If you spot a hawk’s nest in the wild, leave immediately and get to a safe distance at least half a mile away. If the hawk’s nest is in a tree in your yard, avoiding the territory may be a little more challenging, which leads us to our next tip:
- Discourage hawks from your yard: Set up wild animal deterrents, use smell repellents, remove mice or rat colonies, take down bird feeders, and do anything you can think of to make your yard unsuitable for hawks. If they don’t have a continual supply of prey and are frequently scared off by the deterrents, they may leave your property on their own.
- Never turn your back: Hawks attack by sneaking up on their prey when its back is turned. If you are dealing with an aggressive hawk that is threatening to attack, the best thing you can do is to face it the entire time; do not turn away and run, and don’t turn your back on it until it has backed down and flown away.
- Wave your arms and be loud: Hawks don’t care for loud noises or aggressive movements. Shouting and waving your arms is a good way to intimidate a threatening hawk and convince it to back down.
- Duck: Hawks tend to attack by dive-bombing. If you see an attack coming, you may not have time to do anything but duck your head and move out of the line of fire.
- Carry an umbrella: In areas where hawk attacks are frequent, residents are sometimes encouraged to walk with an opened umbrella. The umbrella can not only protect your head in the case of a hawk attack, but it may discourage hawks from attacking in the first place.
What are Hawks Afraid Of?
Whether trying to scare hawks out of your yard for good or prevent an acute attack, it helps to know what scares them. Luckily, hawks are somewhat easier to scare off than some larger birds of prey.
Some common things they’re scared of include:
- Loud noises: As noted above, shouting at hawks may help discourage them from attacking. Most hawks are easily spooked by a variety of loud noises.
- Threatening motions: Waving your arms can deter an active attack, while something as simple as setting up a flag may encourage hawks to leave your yard. Any sudden or unexpected movements can help to scare away hawks.
- Deterrents: Simple wildlife deterrents, such as scarecrows and fake owls, can send the hawks hurrying away from your yard. If you want to remove hawks from your property or prevent them from coming in the first place, using a wildlife deterrent is one of the best things you can do.
Hawk attacks on humans are rare, but they do happen from time to time. If you’re attacked by a hawk, don’t turn and run; instead, face the hawk, make loud noises, and wave your arms in an attempt to scare it off. Here is our comparison of falcon vs hawk, in terms of their strengths.