Dutch town residents staying indoors to escape aggressive owl

A European eagle owl swoops into a soccer stadium in Helsinki, Finland, during a June 6, 2007, match. Another of the world's largest flying owl species has been attacking residents of the Dutch town of Purmerend in recent weeks.
(Markku Ulander / AFP/Getty Images)

The latest attacks on innocent bystanders that have Dutch villagers cowering in their homes at night come not from armed extremists but from an unusually aggressive owl with a nearly 6-foot wingspan.

Dozens of residents in the town of Purmerend have been attacked by the eagle owl in recent weeks, and many have had to seek medical attention for their wounds, the DutchNews website reported Thursday.

The latest victims were an athlete and his trainer out for a run Tuesday night, when the owl swooped down with extended talons and inflicted head wounds that needed hospital treatment, the news site said.

The owl has also attacked at least 15 residents and workers at the Prinsenstichting home for the disabled, a spokeswoman for the facility told news agencies in Amsterdam.

Authorities in Purmerend, about 20 miles north of Amsterdam, have issued an advisory recommending that those venturing outside at night, when the owl has been most aggressive, arm themselves with an umbrella to stave off attack by the nocturnal carnivore.


A statement from the town council also said wildlife officials were trying to assess the level of danger posed by the owl to determine whether they should seek permission from conservation authorities to euthanize it. Eagle owls are a rare species and protected by law.

NLTimes, another Dutch news website, said bird experts attributed the owl’s unusual behavior to breeding season. Others, though, speculated that the owl, believed to be female, had been kept in captivity and released to the wild after it became too much to handle.

The owl may be attacking people, the website said, because it was reared to associate humans with its food source.

A similar rash of owl attacks occurred at a park in the Oregon capital, Salem, this month, inspiring city officials to create a yellow hazard warning sign depicting a stick-figure pedestrian scrambling to evade a descending raptor.

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