Most people expect to see birds during their morning jog, but a Victoria man wasn’t prepared for one Great Horned Owl to launch an attack.
As the darkness of early morning shrouded the Dallas Road path near Beacon Hill Park Tuesday, jogger Dan Barton had no idea there was a silent assailant lurking in the shadows about to strike.
“I was running along the path here. And I felt something kind of come into my head like I was running into a branch or brambles or something. But I looked around, and obviously, there’s nothing around here,” he recalled.
Barton said at first he couldn’t see what or who attacked him.
“I immediately, because it was quite painful, kind of grabbed my head. I was wearing a…toque. I had blood kind of on my hand when I pulled my hand down. So I was like, this is pretty wild,” he said.
But whoo-dunnit? As he grabbed his head in pain, Barton noticed what he recognized as a Great Horned Owl fly into a nearby tree. That’s where it spotted its next prey: another runner.
“I heard her shriek. And the owl swooped down and stole her hat and her headlamp and took it off into the bushes,” he said.
As hawk-eyed birdwatchers with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, Ann Nightingale and Jannaca Chick are always on the lookout for birds and say owls are no strangers to confrontation when it comes to joggers.
Great Horned Owls in particular are known for their powerful hoots and striking appearance, with distinctive tufts of feathers on their head that give them their name. They are also known for being fiercely territorial, especially during nesting season.
“I’d say just about every year, I hear stories of people having their caps stolen or having their ponytails grabbed by owls as they jog along the paths,” Nightingale said.
But it’s not just joggers that have had close encounters with owls on Vancouver Island.
In November, a barred owl made the police blotter after breaking into two Oak Bay homes through their chimneys.
Caretaker Tina Gaboury was shocked by the scene she found at one of the homes.
“I thought that they were robbed. Because there were lamps knocked over, pictures off the walls. The house was in disarray,” Gaboury said at the time.
Back in Beacon Hill Park, Barton’s attacker may be one of a pair of nesting Great Horned Owls and as a result, very protective.
To avoid ruffling any feathers, Nightingale suggests giving the owls a wide berth near the south end of Beacon Hill Park.
“People should just try and give the owl a bit of room in that particular area,” she said.
At least until the feathered assailants are finished causing a hoot in the community.