Pet owners in St. Albert are on high alert after at least five small dogs have been victims of owl attacks.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife officer Dennis Prodan said there have been three calls of an owl or owls attacking small dogs in the Kingswood and Woodlands neighbourhoods.
Tracey Woychenko was out walking her two small dogs on Monday night in Woodlands when an owl attacked her eight-pound Yorkshire Terrier, Max.
Woychenko was carrying her Chihuahua Frank with Max on a leash while crossing the street at around 9 p.m. when a large owl swooped down in front of her and attached to the back of Max.
“It seemed like it came from nowhere. It plopped right down on the Yorkie, right in front of me,” said Woychenko.
Woychenko said she heard her dog squealing and she rushed over and kicked the owl at least four times before it flew away.
“I couldn’t even see Max. His wings were spread pressed against the ground and he was on him,” Woychenko. “I’ve never kicked an animal in my life.”
The two-year-old Max left the skirmish with seven puncture wounds on his head, neck and back. After a trip to the vet the next day it was determined that Max doesn’t need stitches but he was put on antibiotics to avoid an infection.
“The night of [the attack] he kept looking up in the house so he was really spooked. For an hour after he was just shuddering,” Woychenko said. “Its upsetting.”
Prodan said that it is not rare to get calls reporting owls or birds of prey attacking small dogs but he did say that so many in such a small time frame is rare.
Fish and Wildlife received two calls on Feb. 4 and one call on the 5th reporting owl attacks on small dogs. Prodan said it is also rare for birds of prey to attack with the pet owner so close to the dog. All of the reported attacks happened after the sun went down.
Pet owner Emily Brown said that her 16-year-old schnoodle, Barclay, was also attacked by an owl in the Kingswood neighbourhood. At around 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning Brown’s dad, David, let 13-pound Barclay out into the yard. Barclay was attacked by the owl shortly after and David had to run out and swat at the owl before it flew away.
Emilie Maurice said that her dog was also attacked in the Kingswood area, this time on Sunday night between 7 and 8 p.m. Maurice was going to her car to get her homework and let out her six-pound Yorkie, Mocha, to do its business. She heard Mocha squealing from behind her and turned around to see an owl attached to her back. Maurice grabbed the ice scraper out of her car to swat the owl away.
Maurice said that two-year-old Mocha didn’t require a trip to the vet but did have several cuts on her head and body.
Prodan said that all of the attacks have been concentrated south of Riverlot 56 and west of the Sturgeon River but he is not sure if it just one owl or multiple owls. He said he suspects the attackers could be a Great Horned Owl or a Great Grey Owl.
Prodan said that owls and other birds of prey typically feed on mice, small rodents and rabbits or hares but can sometimes confuse small dogs for one of their usual meals.
Although the attacks may be alarming to pet owners, Prodan said that there is not much Fish and Wildlife can do about the birds. By the time the officers get out to the scene of the attack the owl will have already flown away. He said it would be almost impossible to identify the owl or owls responsible for the attack once it has left the scene of the scuffle.
“Living in a place where you are right on the edge of a green space ... there is wildlife that comes along with that. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area like St. Albert that has so much green space you have to take certain precautions to protect your pets,” Prodan said.
To report an owl attack to the Alberta Fish and Game office call 780-427-3574.