Lock up your pets, killer owl on the loose

A A A

It could be a job for the Flying Squad, or perhaps The Bill.

Police in Wiltshire have warned pet owners to be on the look out for a dangerous giant owl which has escaped from its enclosure in the back garden of its owner's house.

The European eagle owl, which has a 2m (6ft) wingspan and is a metre tall, flew from its aviary in Lower Stratton, near Swindon, on Sunday evening. While the bird is unlikely to attack humans, it is said to be capable of hunting and killing animals such as cats and dogs if it becomes hungry enough.

The owl escaped when its owner, who does not want to be identified, opened the aviary door to feed it at about 9pm. The bird launched itself at him, he dodged out of its way – and the raptor flew off.

"It could try to carry off a cat or small dog," said a spokeswoman for Wiltshire Police, adding slightly more reassuringly: "As it has been bred in captivity, the owl is unlikely to attack humans."

The force asked for anyone who saw the bird to contact police "and we will send an appropriate team with the right sort of equipment to catch it".

European eagle owls are the largest in the world and are accomplished hunters, able to kill foxes and even small deer by crushing their skulls with their sharp and powerful talons. Their feathers are extremely soft, allowing them to glide silently and rapidly through the air before swooping down on unsuspecting prey.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said that if a member of the public spotted the owl they should not attempt to catch it themselves, as it was a "large animal that will need specialist handling".

The escaped bird is described as speckled brown in colour, with dark orange eyes, long ear tufts and brown plumage. Its owner believes it will be frightened by its sudden experience of freedom and is probably taking refuge in a tree.

In December last year, European eagle owls were among a number of species to be added to a list of non-native species deemed to pose a threat to Britain's indigenous animals.

Although it is perfectly legal to keep the birds as pets, releasing them into the wild without a licence carries a maximum punishment of two years in jail and a £5,000 fine under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that the owl's owner would not be liable for prosecution as he had released his pet by accident, and the Act did not come into effect until 3 April in any case.

It is not the first time one of the birds has gone missing. In 2003, a European eagle owl called Bobu vanished from its home in Pwllheli, north Wales, only to be discovered more than a year later by a farmer in Ruthin, 57 miles away. Bobu was reunited with his owner.

European eagle owls can weigh up to 9lb and live for 85 years in captivity. It is estimated that there may be 3,000 kept as pets in Britain, and there have been reports of pairs breeding in the wild after escaping their aviaries.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ukip leader Nigel Farage arrives at the Rochester by-election count
voicesIs it any wonder that Thornberry, Miliband, and Cameron have no idea about ordinary everyday life?
Sport
sportComment: Win or lose Hamilton represents the best of Britain
Life and Style
tech
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsene Wenger reacts during Arsenal's 2-1 defeat to Swansea
footballMan United and Arsenal meet on Saturday with both clubs this time languishing outside the top four
News
i100BBC political editor Nick Robinson had a lot of explaining to do
News
A girl plays on a Sony 'PS Vita' portable games console
news
Life and Style
Nappies could have advice on them to encourage mothers and fathers to talk to their babies more often
newsTalking to babies can improve their language and vocabulary skills
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines