Owl accosts early morning joggers and park visitors four times in one month to steal hats

The owl is said to be collecting the hats to make a nest

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Early morning joggers and park visitors should be wary of an owl that has attacked four people for their hats in the space of a month, officials in the US state of Oregon have warned.

Brad Hilliard, 36, was one of at least two joggers who became victim of a mugging by the wild bird at 5.45am on Monday in the state capital of Salem.

“It was kind of amazing how it just swooped down and grabbed my hat like that,” Hilliard told Reuters.

“It just pulled it right off my head like it was nothing!”

Keith Keever, the city’s parks superintendent, said officials had never heard of a case like it before.

Signs have been erected near Bush’s Pasture Park that warn people to avoid jogging before dawn or, jokingly, to think about wearing a hard hat.

Hilliard, who had felt a slight scratch at the back of his neck by the bird’s beak, said he has been back a couple of times this week to look for his five-year-old black Nike baseball cap.

“It hasn’t turned up yet,” he said. “I just assume it’s being used in a nest!”

Members of the Audubon Society, a bird conservancy group, say the bird is a barred owl and believe that it operates alone on its theft missions – and it could appear or act more aggressive because it is currently nesting season.

Originally from the east coast and first seen in Oregon, Washington and California in the 1970s, barred owls have been blamed for pushing out the endangered northern spotted owl.