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Owl attack prompts Minnesota state park trail closure

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources workers expect a Barred Owl, similar to this, is what attacked the girl. File photo

BEMIDJI, Minn.—Lake Bemidji State Park staff have temporarily closed one of their park trails after an owl attack over the weekend.

A 3-year-old girl received "minor scratches" on her head and took a brief trip to an urgent care ward, park staff said, after she was attacked by a owl around 8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, in the park's general-use area near Lake Bemidji.

Staff closed the park's Rocky Point Trail—where they said most "owl activity" occurs—and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources workers investigated the attack but couldn't locate the bird, which they suspect is a Barred Owl.

The attack could be because the owl felt its young were threatened, said Christine Herwig, a regional nongame specialist for Northwestern Minnesota at the DNR. When they're first born, young birds are not strong flyers and parents will sometimes aggressively defend their brood.

There's also a slim chance the bird was infected with parasites that caused it to act oddly, Herwig said.

"It could be either way," she said. "It's a little late for young birds, but I have had a few other calls on that. Late nesting can occur, too. It's hard to say."

There are some steps Minnesotans can take to minimize the risk of bird attacks, Herwig added: don't leave small pets outside, keep children supervised; carry an umbrella or tall stick or flag (birds tend to attack the tallest animal or object in the area when they feel threatened), and leave nests alone. Birds also click their bills or use their calls to signal a possible attack.

"Usually their first thing is to give you a bit of a warning before they're gonna come near you," Herwig said.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education and health for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He is a Minneapolis native and a 2009 graduate of St. John's University. Before moving to Bemidji, Bowen covered education, local politics, crime, and everything in between for the Perham Focus in Perham, Minnesota, and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis.

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