KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Aggressive owls are making people their prey in local state parks, prompting rangers to close off areas to the public for safety.
Last Saturday, Celina Calado was walking down Bridle Trail near Kirkland when she was attacked without warning.
“It felt like a sharp tearing, stinging, feeling in the back,” said Calado.
It was a Barred Owl.
“He grabbed both sides of my pony tail with his claw,” she said.
The owl eventually let go and flew up in a tree. Calado was bleeding and went to the emergency room for treatment for scratches on her head.
With a handful of incidents so far, Park Ranger Mary Welborn says the attacks are concerning visitors.
“People have been clawed enough to draw blood,” said Welborn.
With at least six 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.
Rangers say owls are attracted to women’s pony tails or to those wearing headphones.
News of the attacks has joggers like Joann Sittig extra cautious.
“I’ll probably be looking at the trees, upwards and around me,” she said.
Although she was horrified, Calado says it’s the first time she saw an owl that close.
“He was gorgeous, but maybe next time he can stay in his tree,” said Calado.
The Department of Natural Resources and Parks believes a long summer allowed a second round of egg laying, which hatched more owls.
Park closures are expected to last through the month.