Dogs lose eyes in separate owl attacks in Edmonton area

Two dogs have recently lost eyes in owl attacks in the Edmonton area.

'1 of the talons went through her eye so she had to have the eye removed'

Scruffy lost her eye after she was attacked by an owl in Terwillegar on Saturday night. (Supplied by Robert Cundy)

Two dogs lost eyes in recent owl attacks in the Edmonton area, the first on Thursday in Sherwood Park and the second on Saturday in Terwillegar in the city's southwest.

The first attack saw a nine-year-old, six-pound Pomeranian-Shih Tzu cross named Cinder attacked in her Sherwood Park backyard.

Then on Saturday night, a 14-year-old Havanese named Scruffy was attacked in Terwillegar, also while out in the backyard.

These attacks are the second and third that CBC News has reported on. Another attack occurred on Nov. 21.

'It was a big owl'

Around 7 a.m. Thursday, Shirley Greenaway let her two dogs out in her Sherwood Park backyard.

Both of Shirley Greenway's dogs were in the backyard when Cinder, left, was attacked by an owl. (Shirley Greenaway)

"I went running upstairs to put the tea kettle on and one of them was banging at the door to get in, very aggressively," Greenaway said. She quickly went outside to check on Cinder.

"I could see some blob on the snow, I didn't have my glasses on and then all of a sudden it registered what it was," said Greenaway. "It was a big owl, [it] had my other little dog pinned."

Greenaway started screaming, which got the attention of a friend who is staying with her.

'He picked it up and threw it'

"He came up from the basement and went out and was flapping and yelling and the owl did not move," she said. "He finally kicked it off her and it landed and he picked it up and threw it but it flew away."

Greenaway immediately took the dog for emergency vet services in Edmonton.

Cinder is traumatized after the owl attack on Nov. 21, says owner Shirley Greenaway. (Shirley Greenaway)

"She's got scratches and talon marks on her head and one of the talons went through her eye so she had to have the eye removed," said Greenaway. She didn't hesitate to have the dog treated for its injuries despite the $2,400 vet bill.

Cinder is on antibiotics and pain medication and is doing better, Greenaway said.

'She's still alive'

Robert Cundy let his 14-year-old Havanese, Scruffy, out late Saturday.

"She's a slower-moving dog, so my dad usually stays inside and gives her a few minutes," said Cundy's daughter, Larissa Hauca, who recounted the story for her father, who is deaf.

Hauca said her father told her Scruffy seemed to be taking longer than normal.

"He came out to check on her and he noticed a big owl with its wings around her."

The owl was not deterred when Cundy approached, Hauca said. Her father then threw snow at it until it flew away.

At 1 a.m., Cundy took Scruffy to VCA Canada Guardian Veterinary Centre, where her eye was removed because of damage inflicted during the attack.

Larissa Hauca holds up 14-year-old Scruffy, who is now on the mend after an owl attack. (Supplied by Robert Cundy)

Workers at the clinic told CBC News they have seen a few cases of dogs being attacked by owls over the past week, although would not specify how many.

'Very traumatized'

Both Cinder and Scruffy are now nervous to go in their respective backyards.

While Hauca said Scruffy is doing well, all things considered, she now prefers the front yard. Greenaway said Cinder's behaviour has also changed.

"She's sore, she just wants to stick close, very traumatized," Greenaway said. "The other one is just so scared."

Greenaway and Hauca said both dogs are only allowed outside now under supervision.

Before Cinder was attacked, Greenaway had read the earlier CBC story about a great horned owl attack in Sherwood Park. She blames herself for not being more vigilant.

Cinder lost an eye after she was attacked by an owl in Sherwood Park. (Shirley Greenaway)

"How I could let my guard down knowing that they're out there?" she said. "It was just unbelievable to see that thing."

Hauca said her father feels the same way.

'Rare to see them attacking dogs'

Gordon Court, a provincial wildlife status biologist with Alberta Environment and Parks, said owl attacks on dogs are unusual.

"Great horned owls will take half-grown house cats, skunks — species like that that might be around the farmyard — but it's quite rare to see them attacking dogs," he said.

Those that do are likely desperate for food and likely in bad shape or young.

"When they get very hungry, they get very bold, and they'll actually attack things much larger than themselves," said Court.

"We've found great horned owls with porcupine quills in them even, so they do get pretty crazy with hunger and usually those birds are not going to last very long."

Owls, like all birds of prey, are protected but that doesn't mean people can't protect their pets.

"You can certainly defend your property or your dog," said Court. "If you were in a situation like that I don't think anybody would look badly upon that.

"They certainly are only that bold when they are really, really hungry, and so most of the time great horned owls give people a wide berth. So it's a situation where it was quite a desperate animal."

Cinder's owner says she had read about a recent owl attack in Sherwood Park before her dog was hurt. (Shirley Greenaway)

'Preventive strategies'

Meanwhile, Anita Labrentz, whose Bichon-Shih Tzu cross named Bailey was attacked by an owl in Sherwood Park on Nov. 21, contacted Strathcona County about the incident and has received a response.

In an email to Labrentz, pest inspector Matt Wood encouraged her to contact the Strathcona Raptor Shelter if the owl continues to hang around causing problems.

Owls are protected under the Alberta Wildlife Act.

"They have the expertise as well as the traps and rehab facility if needed," Wood wrote, referring to the shelter, "And might be able to give you some ideas for deterrents or preventive strategies."


Scott Stevenson


Scott Stevenson is a journalist with CBC Edmonton. He has worked in the news industry in Alberta for nearly 20 years, including 10 years with Alberta's other public broadcaster, CKUA. He has also worked in newsrooms in Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Cold Lake. Share your stories with Scott at scott.stevenson@cbc.ca.

With files from Zoe Todd