Skip to content

Owl that attacked toddler at Burnaby park should be destroyed: dad

Father and wildlife biologist Brent Matsuda, whose two-year-old son was attacked by a barred owl at Squint Lake Park Saturday, said the bird has become a public safety concern.

A Burnaby father and wildlife biologist says an owl that attacked his two-year-old son at a local park – its talon missing the boy's eye by millimetres – should be destroyed.

Brent Matsuda said he had seen signs at Squint Lake Park this summer warning of an aggressive owl in the area, but those signs were gone and he "didn’t think it would be a big concern" when he took his toddler for a walk there on Saturday.

Matsuda and his son were on a well-used trail looking at mushrooms, when the owl attacked the boy.

"He was maybe two or three metres ahead of me, and the owl swooped down on him," Matsuda said. "It swooped down out of nowhere, from above the trees, just down and up, and then it took off again."

The boy cried, and scratches soon appeared on his eyelid and scalp, according to Matsuda.

"The owl scratched my son's face and scalp, missing his eye by mere millimetres," he said. "It could have taken out his eye."

Calls to the Conservation Officer Service via the RAPP (Report All Poachers and Pollutors) line proved "useless," according to Matsuda.

"I couldn't even leave a message as their mailbox was full," he said.

He had better luck with the City of Burnaby, which closed the trail and got him in touch with a conservation officer.

Owl attacks have been a problem at Squint Lake Park for at least two years.

In July, a reader told the NOW she personally knew of four people who had been ambushed.

Sofi Hindmarch, an owl expert with the Fraser Valley Conservancy told the NOW in July that the attacks were likely the result of owls protecting their young, who were just leaving the nest at that time.

She predicted the behaviour would taper off in a matter of weeks.

But Matsuda, a professional wildlife biologist who has done owl surveys from California to Northern B.C., now believes the attacks are the work of a single bird, an unpaired male whose behaviour is unlikely to change.

He said the owl has become a public safety issue and something needs to be done.

He noted the province has culled barred owls for years in an effort to save B.C.'s critically endangered Northern spotted owl.

Matsuda doesn't advocate culling the species as a whole, but said the Squint Lake Park bird needs to go.

"This particular owl, this particular location – it's physically made contact with people – it needs to be destroyed."

This story has been changed to reflect the fact signs warning of owl attacks at Squint Lake Park had been removed by the time Matsuda took his son for a walk in the park Saturday.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email [email protected]