Owl attacks rabbit hunter on Digby Neck

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
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An owl attacked a rabbit hunter on Digby Neck last night.

Kevin O’Neil was coming home from checking his rabbit snares in Mink Cove Tuesday night, Feb. 10.

He had gone in towards his hunting camp on the Bay of Fundy side and saw the owl sitting in a tree.

He says he talked to it.

Then a half hour later, just as it was getting dark, the owl attacked.

“I came home from lobster fishing and went to my rabbit snares,” he said. “And on the way back to my truck carrying a couple of rabbits, a barred owl swopped down and struck me in the face.

“The pictures tell the rest—it was pretty freaky.”

O’Neil says he has no idea why and he’s never had a problem with owls before.

“It hit me in the face,” he said. “First it knocked me over in the snow but it didn’t go for the rabbits. It went right at my face.

“Then it landed in a tree not far from where I was setting."

David McCorquodale, the Dean of Science and Technologyand a professor of Biology at the Cape Breton University says it is unusual for an owl to attack a human.

"Not unheard of, but very unusual," he wrote in an email to the Courier. "Chances are he was near a pair that was setting up a nesting territory.  That is the typical reason a bird will fly at a human."

McCorquodale says the bird was either a Barred Owl or a Great Horned Owl. Barred Owls have dark brown eyes and no noticeable ear tufts while a Great Horned Owl has bright yellow eyes and noticeable ear tufts.


Geographic location: Bay of Fundy

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Recent comments

  • Beth
    February 16, 2014 - 07:49

    The owl was defending his food. What else is there to eat at this time of year? Sorry you got injured. You were on the owl's turf.

  • jean mombourquette
    February 13, 2014 - 11:43

    I hate to say it, but I'm with the owl. That's a lot of rabbits Mr. O'Neil is sporting, and maybe the owl was trying to tell him to save some for the rest of us.

  • Bunny Lover
    February 13, 2014 - 10:18

    Snares?? SHAME. They trap not only innocent rabbits but other wild creatures and pets. Shame.

  • juniorchase
    February 13, 2014 - 07:24

    scary one

  • Monique
    February 13, 2014 - 00:04

    I live in the woods and I always bring the dogs for walks I seen a owl in the woods and I had one right in my back yard and I have chickens and it already go two of them ... I think cuz there was no blood anywhere ..... Hope you are ok ... And I hope when I go hunting I don't get a piss off owl ....... Cuz I might have too hurt him !!!!

  • Deb Morgan
    February 12, 2014 - 23:17

    It's very normal for any owl to strike anything that is in it's territory, Basically anything man or animal in an owls hunting ground will strike. Barred owls have small feet and maybe a female (larger than males) are capable of hurting rabbits, but of course they only take one at a time, Maybe just a thought that people should take just one at a time as well ..... If you really need it for food and leave the rest to nature and let them have their share.

  • Nathan Burns
    February 12, 2014 - 20:54

    Karma for putting snares which can catch kid's pets.

  • Crystal Copeland
    February 12, 2014 - 20:53

    rabbit snares are barbaric , have you ever watched a rabbit in a snare? do you even give a thought to the suffering this animal is going through?

  • Sheree
    February 12, 2014 - 15:59

    Jeepers Kevin, what did you say to the owl to upset him? All kidding aside, you're right...it's freaky!

  • val richard
    February 12, 2014 - 14:46

    I'd say you were getting close to a nesting site..or he wanted your rabbits.