Danger ... eagle owls, the largest owls in Europe, hunt foxes, deer — and us
MORE ANIMAL TALES
By ROBIN PERRIE
January 10, 2007
A GIANT owl that devours foxes and small deer is terrorising shoppers and drinkers in a town centre.
It launches itself off high roofs and swoops on passers-by with talons outstretched.
Late-night shoppers and revellers even take taxis to avoid falling “prey” to the eagle owl, which has a 5ft wingspan.
It set up home on the roof of Middlesbrough train station in September — but turned nasty over Christmas.
Craig Smith told how the bird swooped on him from behind as he ran through the station car park to catch a train from the Teesside town.
He recalled: “I heard a loud woo-woo noise and looked over my shoulder to see this creature with silver wings, claws stretched out.
“I ran as fast as I could on to the platform and it flew away.
“On Christmas Eve I saw it go for a man coming out of a pub and chase him down the street.”
Another victim dad-of-four Mark Fryett, 40, had to fight the bird off.
He said: “I was leaving work when I heard a hoot and a whoosh and saw this big white face coming at me.
“I put my arm up and hit its wing and it fell on the floor, but got up again and flew off.
“I was really shaken up. It was like something out of Harry Potter — I thought it was going to pick me up! I went home and called police, but I think they thought I was drunk.”
Mark said that, eerily, he saw the owl again the next day on the Chamber of Commerce building.
He recalled: “It was perched on the side of a building, watching me.”
Experts say the bird is capable of killing a fox or small deer and warn pet owners to watch their animals.
Rachael Stewart, of the Kirkleatham Owl Centre in Redcar, North Yorkshire, said: “We think it must have escaped from a travelling show.
“Volunteers have tried to catch it a couple of times. It’s not dangerous to people but it will have to hunt to survive. It could easily kill a cat or small dog.”