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Video: Owl steals runner's hat on Richmond's West Dike Trail

The West Dike Trail at Westminster Highway appears to be a hot spot for runners getting mistaken for prey
west dike trail
The West Dike Trail is known for its wildlife. File photo

More joggers on the West Dike Trail have reached out to the Richmond News with their stories of being mistakenly “attacked” by owls.

Last week the News told how regular West Dike runner Mark Ritchie felt an owl’s powerful talons on his head near the trail’s intersection with Westminster Highway at around 6 p.m.

Ritchie said the owl “swooped down behind me and put its claws into the top of my head for several seconds. When I reached up to bat it away with my arm, it flew away. I think it mistook my black wool hat as something other than the rest of me.”

Indeed, his experience was markedly similar to two more readers who contacted the News after reading Ritchie’s tale.

Wes Kirk even has a video of an owl – believed by experts to be a barred owl which, from high above, is mistaking runners’ toques and pony tails for prey – flying away into the dark sky last week with his hat.


“At this time of the year, it happens to me at least once a week,” said Kirk, referring to an owl swooping down on him in the same section of the dike trail as Ritchie.

“I’ve been running that section of the dike every morning before work for years and it always happens around this time of year.

“But I don’t really think of it as being attacked; I think they’re just practising their hunting skills.

“For anyone interested, the ‘danger zone’ is really between Westminster Highway and Blundell, along the dike there.”

Kirk added that he used to do a lot of trail running in all sorts of places, “but I see more wildlife on my morning run on the dike than anywhere else I’ve run.

“On any morning I’ll be running along with coyotes while there’s a beaver swimming in the river and owls swooping at my head, all while eagles are sitting in the trees (and I) try not to step on any skunk or raccoon tails.”

Ali Tung also described how he was on the West Dike Trail a couple of weeks ago at the same spot when, while wearing a black beanie, was chased by an owl.

“It grabbed me from behind,” Tung told the News.

“Although I ended up grabbing it, thinking somebody had grabbed my head and I slammed it into the ground when I freaked out.”

Tung said the owl sat stunned on the ground for a few seconds before flying away, with him running as fast as he could in the opposite direction.

Experts have said in the past that the owl, when hunting, is totally focused on its prey and nothing else.

It’s only when they hit their “target” that they realize its 150 pounds heavier than it should be and that’s when they bounce off.

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