‘I was bewildered, it was a hard hit’: B.C. man recounts rare owl attack

Click to play video: 'Owl attack leaves Fraser Valley man without his hat' Owl attack leaves Fraser Valley man without his hat
A winged culprit made off with a Fraser Valley man's hat in a vicious, mean-spirited attack. Kristen Robinson reports – Oct 5, 2019

A B.C. man was stunned and left momentarily hat-less when he became the latest victim of a rare daytime owl attack.

Shane Cooney was hiking the trails near the Ledgeview Golf & Country Club in Abbotsford on Sept. 28 when he was attacked out of nowhere.

“Boom, it felt like a rake just hit me in the back,” said Cooney. “I was bewildered, it was a hard hit.”

At first, the teacher thought maybe a tree branch had fallen on him, until he turned around and spotted the suspect: a winged assailant who fled with his ball cap.

READ MORE: In 2 days, owl attacks reported in Tsawwassen against a jogger, a cyclist and more

“That’s where I saw the owl holding my hat in its talons”, Cooney recalled.

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As the raptor glared at him, Cooney starting recording on his phone and calling for the owl to return his hat. When the bird bandit didn’t comply, Cooney gave chase.

The short pursuit ended when the owl stopped and perched on a tree branch, Cooney’s hat in its claws and its nocturnal eyes fixated on him.

“At this point it was just staring at me,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Delta police issue warning after residents attacked by owls' Delta police issue warning after residents attacked by owls
Delta police issue warning after residents attacked by owls – Feb 10, 2018

Cooney’s encounter came to an end shortly after he shook the tree to free his cap from the owl’s grip.

The bird flew at Cooney two more times, striking the back of his head each time.

Stunned, Cooney decided the owl was definitely in hunt mode. He escaped with a few scratches to his head — and his hat.

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READ MORE: Oliver couple claims raptor snatched dog from backyard; raptor rehab facility says attack would be extremely rare

Owl attacks in this province are rare. In September 2000, aggressive owl warnings were posted on trails near Vancouver’s Spanish Banks after joggers reported losing their hats when the raptors launched daytime dive bombings.

At least one victim suffered a cut to the scalp during that period.

Experts at the time said the predators were just trying to survive.

READ MORE: Spike in crow attacks in Vancouver’s west end

“What the owl is doing is just essentially learning how to hunt,” said Mitch Sokalski, Metro Vancouver’s regional parks director. “The basic instincts for the owl is to be able to hunt its prey.”

More recently, an aggressive owl preyed on cyclists and joggers in Tsawwassen last February.

Now that Cooney is the latest victim, he says he still can’t believe it.

“Still a bit of shock that I was caught up in a moment that probably is fairly unusual,” he said.

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