Raptor attack
Local man assaulted by protective bird

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

NNSL (May 29/98) - Mike Bryant won't be telling too many tales of the one that got away.

Rather, he'll recount the time when he was the one that got away -- when a bird attacked him while he was trying to catch a fish.

On Tuesday evening, around 7:30 p.m., Bryant and a friend were casting their lines out at Big Hill Lake, a hour's hike off the Ingraham Trail south of Madeline Lake. Suddenly, a bird, likely an owl or a hawk, he says, swooped down on him.

"It came at me so fast. It made one pass over me and I ducked and hit the ground. Then I looked behind me and it whacked me right in the face," Bryant recalled. "It looks like I got in a big scrap. It was just the weirdest thing."

The bird, described as gray and white, weighting about seven kilograms and with a wingspan of more than a metre, made three passes before it relented.

In a daze, Bryant crawled into the cover of some nearby trees to escape. His injuries amounted to a black eye, a bruised lip, talon marks on his forehead and scratches on his nose.

"It was like getting hit in the head by a frying pan. I was seeing stars," Bryant said.

He said had noticed a nest not far from where they were fishing.

Ray Case, a biologist with NWT Department of Wildlife, said Bryant's description and reaction to the bird are typical of the great-horned owl defending its nest.

"Most raptors, in fact, are quite defensive of their nests and they can do damage," Case said.