Providence Bay family dealing with rogue owl attacks
PROVIDENCE BAY -- A Manitoulin Island family says it's been dealing with its own self-described nightmare after being stalked and attacked by an owl over the past week.
Their ordeal started on Thursday evening, Sherry Anderson McFarlane was outside on her porch like any typical evening.
"I was sitting exactly here, by myself, Greg and the dogs were inside the house," said Anderson McFarlane.
"All of the sudden I got hit between the eyes and everything went black and while everything was black, all I kept thinking was 'who hit me with the baseball bat?’"
Anderson McFarlane called for help, bloodied and bruised. Six days later you can still see the marks left over both her eyes.
It wasn't until the following day that they learned who the likely culprit was as what appeared to be a 5 pound female Great-Horned owl flew into the dining room window.
It stayed for about an hour and half before it decided to leave the veranda.
Sherry Anderson McFarlane was outside on her porch when she was attacked by what she later found out what a Great-Horned owl. (Photo courtesy of Sherry Anderson McFarlane)
The next night, believing the bird had left. The family had let their dogs out for an evening pee but when their 14-year-old shih-tzu failed to return, something felt wrong to Anderson McFarlane's husband Greg.
"I went down to the deck and it was dark and I said 'come on Asia, let's go,' and I saw this thing move and it was bigger than the dog so I walked down the deck and the owl had Asia by the neck and front-end and it looked at me so I gave it a kick and it took off," he said.
That Sunday evening, they took the dog to the vet in Mindemoya where it stayed the night.
"Asia was having a lot of trouble breathing, the vet said she had been strangled by the owl," said Sherry.
When they returned they found the owl waiting for them at the bottom of the patio.
It flew into the window two more times and then stayed for a few hours on the deck before leaving, appearing to almost 'stare' them down.
Asia passed away on Monday evening. The owl returned for a final time that day where it went after the remaining dogs before being scared away.
The family hasn't seen it since. Animal Rescue has also brought 4 live traps in hopes of capturing it.
What makes the incident so unusual is experts are unsure of what exactly the bird was doing, citing this as atypical behaviour for the species.
Garth Baker is a license bird of prey specialist who works with the Simcoe County Banding Group.
He's spending the winter in nearby Billings Township and answered the McFarlanes' Facebook post asking for help.
"Territorial behaviour you might get birds attacking you and also food, I think that's the biggest issue here was food. Great Horned Owls are apex predators, they're one of the largest owls that we have in weight and in size... they can go after small dogs but to go after a human,” said Baker.
“You would think if you're near a nest, you might be in their territory and they're protecting it but when you're sitting on your front porch, minding your own business and you get blind-sided, that is a very, very rare occurrence."
Baker scoured the nearby trees and a subdivision under construction for any signs of a nest but so far there has been nothing.
He's even played owl calls to see but there has been no sign of the animal over the last few days.
"I've heard of incidents in the States of birds of prey attacking people, but that's usually because they were close to their nest and territories, he added.
According to the Facebook group 'Whats' doin on Manitoulin", there have been similar reports of owl attacks along the south shore of the island.
Baker has recommended if the bird returns, for the couple to use an umbrella in hopes of scaring it off and forcing it to move on.
In the meantime, Sherry and Greg say they're hopeful this bird has gotten the message and has left their veranda for good.
"I don't want to deal with this anymore, I've had enough. I'm done. I've never seen this in my life and I hope I never see it again," said Greg.
Anderson McFarlane says she's never seen anything like this in her lifetime. They've owned the property for decades and she's a sixth-generation islander.
In the meantime, the traps will stay on the property for the time being in hopes of serving as a deterrent.