SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- A half-mile trail inside Soaring Eagle Park in Sammamish is closed until further notice due to... aggressive owls?
There have been six attacks in the park in the last month by Barred Owls, but wildlife officials say the owls' behavior is not out of the ordinary.
Chris Anderson with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife says it's hormonal and usually it's the young adults that can't keep those hormones under control.
"They feel territorial and they don't recognize what's a threat and what's not a threat yet,"
"They're making their presence known - they're basically saying hey this is my space, get out of it."
No one has been seriously hurt in the attacks, though the owl drew blood with its sharp talons in at least one incident. “We’re not sure if maybe it has young that it is trying to protect or if it is injured and just trying to be aggressive to people it sees as being a threat,”
Signs of have been set up at the park’s entrances warning users of the aggressive owls. The closed sections include portions of the so-called “Katie Lane” and “North Trail” sections.
Joe Buchanan, natural resource specialist with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, said owls dive-bombing humans is not a common behavior, though he usually gets a report or two of it happening about this time of year every year.
The owl is likely a barred owl species, which when full-grown can have a wingspan of 40 to 50 inches and way one and a half pounds.
Though he said there’s not been any formal studies into the behavior, the fact that most reports happen during the fall lead Buchanan to theorize that its a juvenile who recently left its mother’s nest and is getting territorial over its own brand new nesting spot.
In most owl attack reports, its common for the owl to go after moving targets it might be mistaking for prey.
“Often it will happen when someone is jogging and the owl sees a pony tail bouncing or something on the top of a hat or an iPod cord and it catches it’s attention,
The county is hoping the closure will be short term and the owl’s aggressive behavior will die down as the weather cools.
While they wait that process, Anderson says there is a benefit to having the owls around -- they keep the rat population down.