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Saskatchewan town on edge as great horned owl attacks dogs

A great horned owl, like the one seen here carrying a small bird, has been attacking dogs in Aberdeen, Sask. Anthony C. Gibson/Rex Features DM

ABERDEEN, Sask. – People in a village northeast of Saskatoon are at odds over what to do about an owl that is believed to have attacked at least three small dogs.

A great horned owl has been living in a spruce tree in the community of Aberdeen.

Miranda Hingston says the bird swooped at her chihuahua, Rosco, last month even though she was standing right next to her pet.

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Rosco survived, but Hingston says her friend’s small dog was killed by the bird of prey and residents say a third canine was attacked as well.

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She wants the owl gone, even it means destroying it.

But resident Janet Weser says people just need to keep a closer eye on their pets and the bird should be left alone.

“Let it hunt. It will move on as soon as the ice and snow melts off the fields. It will be after the mice,” Weser said.

“I heard a shriek and then the owl grabbed a hold of him, dragged him about four feet and was going back and forth,” Hingston recalled of the attack. “I actually had to kick the owl to get him to let go.”

Miranda Hingston is shown with her chihuahua, Rosco.
Miranda Hingston is shown with her chihuahua, Rosco. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

She said her dog is doing well despite having a few talon marks on his chest and back.

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“I know a lot of people around town are saying, ‘Oh, it should just be left alone’ … but at the same time, what about our animals? There’s a lot of small animals in town.”

Kerry Wrishko, a conservation officer with the Environment Ministry, said it’s not unusual for owls to attack small, domesticated animals if no other food options are available.

Great horned owls are the most common owl species in Saskatchewan and usually prey on mice and rabbits, although they’ve been known to attack animals as large as a Canada goose, he said.

“You can’t blame the owl. They’re just doing what comes natural. They’ve got to eat.”

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Wrishko confirmed that one of his staff did see a great horned owl during a visit to Aberdeen shortly after the attacks in March, but many people in town say that particular bird hasn’t been seen since.

Some residents also stress that many owls come and go from the village and more than one bird could be responsible for the attacks.

Moving the bird that’s been spotted several times in the spruce tree is not an option, Wrishko said. That means if Aberdeen officials want to get rid of the owl, the ministry will have to kill it.

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“There’s just not an effective means of live-trapping a great horned owl. Even if you take it away, it could end up coming back if it’s got a nest.”

Wrishko said the conservation officer could not determine whether the owl was nesting because the spruce tree’s branches were too thick.

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