Owl attacks rabbit hunter on Digby Neck

Published on February 13, 2014

DIGBY NECK - An owl attacked a rabbit hunter on Digby Neck on Tuesday.

Kevin O’Neil was coming home from checking his rabbit snares in Mink Cove. 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 sitting."

David McCorquodale, the Dean of Science and Technology, and 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.