Owls are birds of prey who tend to avoid humans, but what are you supposed to do if an owl shows an unusual amount of aggression? In this article, we’ll talk about what to do if an owl attacks you and how to avoid an attack in the first place.
What You'll Learn Today
Do Owls Attack People?
Usually, owls and humans coexist peacefully, preferring to avoid conflict by leaving each other alone. Sometimes though, if human and owl territories overlap, if owls feel threatened, or they are under extra stress for any reason, they may attack humans.
As you can see in the following video, they may even attack when they are hungry or trying to provide food for their young.
Any time an owl does attack, it may offer a series of hoots to warn the human to back off. If this warning call is not heeded, the owl will “dive bomb” its victim, attacking silently and without warning.
Owls may attack repeatedly, especially if multiple humans encroach on their territory or if the same human does so repeatedly. Adult owls tend to be most aggressive during breeding season, when their hormones are high and they are attempting to protect mates and young.
That said, humans are most likely to be attacked by juveniles practicing their hunting skills, playing, and exploring new territory. Young owls may also attack people shortly after their parents have stopped feeding them–think of it as the animal kingdom equivalent of being “hangry.”
Keep in mind though, owl attacks are generally rare. Owls typically avoid getting too close to people, as they don’t care for urban areas and they tend to hunt in different places and at different times than they would encounter humans.
Can Owls Hurt or Kill People?
Though owl attacks are rare, they do happen often enough to occasionally make the news. If you’ve heard about an owl attack in your area, you may be wondering if it’s safe to go outside or if you should be worried about owls attacking you.
The good news is, the threat of severe injury or death caused by an owl attack is relatively low.
According to Audubon, owl attacks “can definitely cause blunt force trauma.” Though owl attacks are not entirely uncommon, they rarely result in serious injury.
Owls are fairly small and lightweight compared even to small humans. Their talons certainly may cause minor injuries if they get it in their mind to attack an unsuspecting passerby, but even the fiercest attacks rarely, if ever, result in death.
Owls that do attack usually target the head, so the most common injuries from owl attacks are deep lacerations to the scalp. Other injuries that may be caused by an aggressive owl strike include bruising and minor concussions.
How Do You Stop an Owl From Attacking You?
So, what should you do if you’re ever attacked by an owl? What is the best way to stop the attack before becoming injured?
Stopping an owl attack can be tricky because it usually happens so fast. You may not hear or see it coming, and the owl will probably be flying away before you know what has hit you.
The best way to protect yourself from an owl attack is to avoid being out by yourself at night, especially in rural areas.
That said, if you have to be out after dark or before dawn, there are some things you can do to limit your chances of being injured in case of an owl attack.
- Pay attention to your surroundings: Listen closely for the sound of owls hooting, and watch for owls staring at you from the trees. Move away from the area if you see or hear anything that makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable.
- Wear head protection: Wearing a bike helmet or even a simple ball cap can protect your head from an owl’s knifelike talons. Alternatively, you can carry an umbrella to shield yourself against any potential attacks.
- Flail your arms and make noise: If you are attacked by an owl, don’t stand still and take it. Jump around, waving your arms and making as much noise as possible to try and scare the owl away.
- Cover your head: If you see an owl swooping toward you, your first priority should be protecting your head. Even if you only have a split second to cover your head with your hands and arms, this will limit your chances of sustaining a more serious injury in the attack.
- Quickly move to more populated areas: Once an eagle has attacked you, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve crossed over into its territory. To prevent further attacks, leave the area immediately and head for areas with more people, as the owl is unlikely to follow you there.
How To Avoid Owl Attacks
Of course, the best way to protect yourself from an owl attack is to avoid being attacked in the first place. But how do you do that?
Let’s take a look at some tips to keep in mind.
- Listen carefully: As noted above, owls tend to give you a warning before they attack. If you hear what seems to be an unusual amount of hooting, or if it sounds too close for comfort, you should probably leave the area immediately.
- Use an umbrella: Covering yourself with an umbrella may do more than protect you during an attack; it may prevent an attack in the first place. The umbrella can give the impression that you are a much larger “prey” than the owl is capable of handling, or that you are too powerful a predator for it to challenge.
- Discourage owls on your property: Keep your trees trimmed and use a scarecrow or some other type of bird repellent. If you can keep your yard from becoming an ideal sanctuary for owls, you will lower your chances of becoming involved in battles for territory with the birds.
- Avoid rural areas at night: Woodland areas, meadows, and even city parks can become hotspots for owls. If you go to these areas, especially at night, you risk encroaching on their territory and provoking an attack.
- Leave owls alone: Don’t go looking for trouble. You may be curious about observing an owl’s behavior, but they are elusive creatures, and if you get too close, they will not hesitate to put you in your place.
Why Do Owls Stare at You?
Owls’ eyes are fixed in their head and cannot move around. For an owl to look in another direction, it must turn its head entirely.
For this reason, it may look like an owl is staring at you when, in reality, it simply isn’t going to the trouble of looking elsewhere.
Owls may intentionally stare at you to keep track of what you are doing. If you are near their territory, they will watch you closely to see what you are going to do and may attack if you wander into their space.
How Far Can an Owl See?
Owls are far-sighted, meaning they can see objects at a distance much better than up close.
Depending on the size of the prey they are stalking, they can spot it from half a mile to a mile away. If an owl is stalking a human, it may be able to see it from a much greater distance.
An owl’s vision is strongest at night, which is when they do most of their hunting. Nighttime is also when they are most likely to attack people.
Owls don’t typically attack humans, but they may do so if they feel threatened or are defending their territory. Owl attacks can cause usually-minor injuries such as lacerations, bruises, and minor concussions.
The best way to avoid an owl attack is to avoid rural areas at night, especially if you know owls live in the area. If you must be out at night, wear some sort of head protection or carry an umbrella to protect yourself from potential attacks.
11 thoughts on “What To Do If An Owl Attacks You?”
I am here to tell you, owl’s can and do attack! I walk a paved walking trail every morning in the town where I live. For several months I have been hearing and seeing a big gray barn owl. This morning, he was in a tree, on a very low limb at an intersection. I decided to take a picture of him. It was just before daylight. I was about 25 feet from the tree. When I took the picture, he swooped and attacked my head before I knew what hit me. I have multiple lacerations, bruises, and it knocked me down. I had to walk about 2 miles back to my car, bloody and injured. Stay away from owls!
You were looking for trouble, and I am a person telling you who would defend himself against mockingbird attack, or yellow jacket attacks.
Wow. I am watching a murder mystery now and it is looking like an innocent man was jailed for something an owl did! So I believe you, Mr. French.
I’m watching, I do believe the same trial. Sounds like they didn’t do a very good job of collecting evidence. Blood outside the house and she had a feather in her hair.
So sad! I never thought they would attack a human ! Now I know better !
But why was she coughing up blood. That seems odd to me.
I have a overgrown golf course with a pond in my back yard. I sat on my porch last night. Three big owls perched not three yards on a branch and watched me for about 10 minutes. It was Erie and fascinating! One by one they moved out of sight? Was I in danger? I usually get a visit by one but not three. I don’t want to discourage them if there is no threat.
I’ve been thinking about building an owls nest to attract owls who would eat the rodents that feast on my vegetable garden and find their way into my living space. Perhaps I need to find another solution. I’ve always felt a connection with owls and even felt like they were talking to me on my evening hikes. I guess maybe they were… Only instead of saying “hello. What’s your sign? You come here often?” maybe they were saying, “yo! You’re getting kind of close.”
What I never had owls in my yard so how do u avoid getting attackd by an owl?
I was attacked on the head by an owl the night before in my front yard, did some home care to stop the bleeding and went to urgent care, doctor found 4 laceration wounds, no stitch needed, doctor did prescribe the antibiotic to prevent infection.
I live in a golf course community in WA state with dense vegetation, it’s common to hear owl hooting every night in our neighborhood. The night before I saw an owl stopping on the top of my car in the driveway and then flying to the nearby tree branch, went outside to snap couple pictures, on the way back crossing the lawn, suddenly felt a strong force knocking me down and grabbing my head/hair from behind without notice, screaming and instantly holding my head as I was bleeding profusely.
I believe this is the second time I got attacked by an owl in my home area, the first time I was just gotten knocked down without injury by an owl when crossed the street to check the mailbox during the night several years back before pandemic.
I do believe the owl theory!
My son and his wife and kids have a cabin on the north shore of Lake Okaboji. A week ago Mike’s wife Kelly was attacked on her way from the boat to the cabin after a night cruise. These attacks have continued, with an elderly woman knocked down, and persistent dive-bombing to anyone in the area. The whole north shore has been affected by this owl. The DNR came today, but couldn’t catch it with a net and then scared it away with fireworks. One thought was that this owl was raised by people or rehabbed during an injury. My daughter, her friend and I are planning on spending a few days there this weekend. I am definitely bringing my bike helmet and umbrellas. Will we be attacked if we go swimming during the day?
Don’t go out at night without a hat on, at the very least. Not only will the hat provide some protection, but it will cover up the top of your head, which probably looks like a furry animal to the owl. I’d guess that the owl is a Great Horned Owl, a Barred Owl equivalent.
I always wear a ball cap when I go out on my south 40 to talk to my owls, even though they are only Western Screech Owls.