West Seattle wildlife: Owl attack on Harbor Avenue

It’s been years since our last reader report about an owl attack. This morning, Rose e-mailed this report of what happened while she jogged along Harbor Avenue:

On my run this morning at about 5:20 am on Harbor Ave SW just a bit south of the 7-11 [map] I was attacked by an owl. It is literally that one stretch of Harbor that if you scream no one hears you!

It clawed my head and it looked like it was considering another swipe.

I run that stretch of road every day and have never seen an owl there. So I want folks to be alert that one was there this morning.

ps – it did break my skin and there was a little blood but I am okay. and I was able to finish my run.

Our archived reports include encounters on Bonair in 2010 and in 2011, and, later in 2011, in Lincoln Park. And web searches reveal more than a few reports from elsewhere in the city. The state’s Living With Wildlife” one-sheet about owls offers explanation as well as advice.

30 Replies to "West Seattle wildlife: Owl attack on Harbor Avenue"

  • Seattlite March 29, 2016 (9:18 am)

    Does the runner need some kind of shot if a wild bird breaks the skin…just wondering?  I’ve had crows swoop down to my head but never touch.  I believe some birds are territorial especially if they have babies.

    • Trickycoolj March 29, 2016 (10:16 am)

      Wondering the same. Probably tetanus up to date at the least. 

  • cj March 29, 2016 (9:21 am)

    I’m going to guess that it is mating and raising of young season that also will not make large and small birds particularly friendly.

  • KBear March 29, 2016 (9:38 am)

    Gee, maybe the owl was angry because someone cut down its home! 

    • WSB March 29, 2016 (9:43 am)

      I was wondering how long it would take someone to make a comment along those lines. For the record, this is about a mile away from the now-famous tree-cutting site, as the … owl … flies. All part, however, of what the city calls the Duwamish Head Greenbelt. – TR

  • wyatt March 29, 2016 (10:10 am)

    I’ve had this happen to me (2014) in Lincoln Park, bonked in the head by a pair of barred owls.  They seemed to be protecting a nesting area.  It hurt a bit but I also felt lucky to see them so close!  Barred owls are invasive and known for being aggressive.  For what it’s worth, it’s not just humans they attack–they are now are considered (along with logging) one of the top threats to northern spotted owls.  https://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/articles.cfm?id=149489615

  • WSince86 March 29, 2016 (10:50 am)

    That had to have been scary!  Guess we better start watching for the crows, too.

  • waikikigirl March 29, 2016 (11:10 am)

     TR….you crack me up!!! :>)   “For the record, this is about a mile away from the now-famous tree-cutting site, as the … owl … flies. ” cute!


  • IMHO March 29, 2016 (11:31 am)

    Having just read what you wrote, I’m concerned about your safety, and it ain’t all about wildlife.

    Be safe.

    • rose March 29, 2016 (12:54 pm)

      Thanks.  I try to be careful and am super aware of my surroundings. And have joked with a friend about how I run through populated areas…except that one section.  I will be more careful now for sure.

  • rose March 29, 2016 (11:33 am)

    Hi Everyone.

    I wanted to let folks know that if you get attacked by an owl you would need a tetanus shot. 

    I went to my doctor and was up to date on that one so I didn’t need a shot. I was also likely to be their most interesting patient today.


    • Sue March 29, 2016 (11:57 am)

      Glad you’re okay, Rose!

  • mhecktor March 29, 2016 (11:58 am)

    Rose, do you have long hair that you wear in a ponytail when you run?  I recall similar owl attacks on the eastside and all the victims had ponytails.  The owls must see those swinging back and forth and think they are predators.

    • rose March 29, 2016 (12:31 pm)

      I have super short hair.

      I am blaming it on the blinking lights I wear so drivers, other runners and bikers can see me.  I also blame it on the fact I wasn’t running fast enough. :-)

      • chemist March 29, 2016 (1:41 pm)

        Now, now… nobody should go around blaming the victim.  This is clearly something deeply ingrained in the psychology of a deranged owl.

  • KD March 29, 2016 (12:10 pm)

    Glad you are okay!

    Just wondering if a rabies shot would be needed too. Does anyone know if owls potentially carry rabies? Just curious.

    • rose March 29, 2016 (12:49 pm)

      Doctor said no rabies.  Owls don’t get them.  I asked specifically.

    • stina March 29, 2016 (8:56 pm)

      Birds can’t carry rabies.  Only mammals.  Just so you know when the birds come for you :)

  • joy March 29, 2016 (12:11 pm)

    hi rose,

    i’m the person who you often see walking with my dog and you stopped me this morning right at marination to let me know what had happened. i was uber careful as we continued to the car. i think part of why that section where you were running is particularly prime territory for an attack is that owls see so well at night and as i drove away at 5:45am i noticed there are no streetlights on that side of the street. that section between 7-11 and south to where cycle u and the work lofts are is pretty dark. makes for good habitat for owls to make nests and raise their young and it’s very similar to bonair where the other owl attacks have been that i recall from blog reports. thank you for warning me and i’m really glad you are ok—i  know it must have been very startling and upsetting.

    • rose March 29, 2016 (12:50 pm)

      Thanks Joy.

      I’m glad you and your puppy made it safely to your car. And yes it is dark in that little section.


  • JVM March 29, 2016 (12:58 pm)

    There is a resident barred owl we have sighted on several
    occasions in front of our home on the hillside above Harbor Ave.  While I’ve not known it to be aggressive
    toward people (in fact just the opposite), my research found the barred owl is
    a non-native species and a threat to the spotted owl.  I am sorry to hear of its aggressiveness on
    your morning run and appreciate that you let us know.


  • Mizmary March 29, 2016 (1:30 pm)

    I was attacked about a month ago in the same spot. It was early in the morning as well. I still can’t run on that trail, I either run  in the middle of the road or on the other side. It’s a pretty frightening experience. 

  • Deo March 29, 2016 (1:46 pm)

    Good idea to wear a protective hat and jacket if running in areas with nesting birds. 

  • marty March 29, 2016 (1:53 pm)

    Hoo would do that?? Hoo? Hoo?

  • AL March 29, 2016 (4:18 pm)

    Hi Rose,

    It’s AL, the cyclist you’ve spoken to a few times in the mornings over the past year or so.

    I saw the owl flying overhead twice before DST started (he was easier to see then as it was lighter) and both times it appeared he was heading my way but I think the flashing light on the forehead of my helmet got him to change his mind.

    Sadly thou on both occasions it wasn’t light enough for him to be filmed by the camera I wear atop of the helmet or I’d have a photo of your aggressor, but maybe that will change in the next few weeks as my AM commute becomes better lit.  Stay tuned!!!

    Hope to see you again soon!

    PS~You ARE very well lit and easy to spot from far away. Not nearly as good as many of your counterparts who have obviously graduated from the ‘Ninja-Runner’ Academy.


    • rose March 30, 2016 (9:04 am)

      Thanks Al.  it was nice seeing you this morning.  And I thought the lights attracted the owl. But this morning no attack! :-)

  • JW March 30, 2016 (9:09 am)

    Hi Rose!

    To add to the chorus of your fellow early AM runner/biker/walker friends, I’m the gal that was coming down the hill on California when you considerately stopped me and told your cautionary tale. I must say, you were very composed for having such a traumatic event just happen! I run that stretch every week so appreciated knowing an owl is likely watching. (I’ve had an owl do a drive-by on my head on Bonair but nothing like what you experienced.) After leaving you I ran the rest of my route but waved my arms above my head like a crazy person– I’m sure all wildlife was very amused.

    A great community of folks are out there each morning– thanks for reminding me of that! I’ve been running WS in the wee morning hours for 17 years and my only moments of anxiety have come from wildlife (raccoons and once a coyote). I’d say that’s pretty dang cool.

    Hope to see you out there again soon!

  • Blinkyjoe March 30, 2016 (4:22 pm)

    Maybe a West Seattle variation on the time-tested Sunderbans Tiger Mask could work during fledging season!! LOL!!

  • Devon Stewart March 30, 2016 (11:02 pm)

    So I was running up Fairmount towards West Seattle HS tonight and was attacked by an owl as well. Hit my head (no blood) and came back for 4 more passes. By the end I had to take my shirt off and wave it to keep it off as I backed up the remainder of the hill. Pretty interesting mile 6 of my run.

  • Mama2papa March 31, 2016 (8:53 am)

    My husband runs Fairmount canyon daily & has been attacked twice by this owl or his cousin!   Since the second attack (1 March ) hes decided to wait until daylight to do his torturous run up and down the canyon … Going with the theory 3 x your out!  Bloodied both times!

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