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Man attacked by red-tailed hawk in Herriman

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jul 24, 2019

HERRIMAN, Utah -- "A real-life nightmare" is how some Herriman residents described a man's run-in with a bird of prey on the Juniper Crest Trail Tuesday.

"'I just got attacked,' and before he even said anything, I assumed the worst, and I thought maybe like a mountain lion or something," said Heidi Neill McDermott, wife of the bird attack victim. "And he’s like, 'No, I just got attacked by a big bird.'"

The lead bird trainer at Utah's Hogle Zoo says, this doesn't surprise him, because summer marks fledging season.

"Fledging is when the youngsters are kind of leaving the nest for the first time, so they’re flapping a little bit. They’re learning how to fly, and that can be kind of a perilous time for them," said Nick Harris. "So that’s why those parents are definitely going to be defensive."

Experts say birds don't go after any noise, scent, or color in particular, so what can we do?

"Well, of course, the simplest solution is to just avoid the area. If you noticed that there is a bird that’s kind of being aggressive in a certain area, you can put up a sign, try walking around it," Harris said. "If you absolutely have to go through that area, maybe an umbrella."

But Harris reminded hikers that birds are generally not aggressive creatures, and incidents like the one in Herriman are rare.

That’s about as much damage as I would ever expect to see," said Harris. "Generally what those birds are going to do; they’re going to dive-bomb. They just want the threat of the predator to avoid the area."

Harris said he recognizes the bird that attacked the hiker as a red-tailed hawk from the shape of the wings and tail. The hiker himself; he lived to tell about it.

"It all cleaned up pretty well, and we got some Neosporin on there," McDermott said. "He’s doing a lot better once we got through the blood and got that all cleaned off. It’s good. He’s fine."

That’s some good news, and some more good news; experts say fledging season generally winds down at the end of July, so baby birds will be off on their own, and humans can worry less about their parents.

The Utah Department of Natural Resources reminds people of the Migratory Bird Act, which makes disturbing or moving the nest of most birds illegal.