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.