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I live just a couple hundred feet from a maze of hiking trails, and I take Skipper on short hikes almost every day. About a month ago, I noticed an owl flying around on several of our hikes. This was in daylight - usually late afternoon or early evening, like a couple hours before sunset. I traveled to Canada for a friend's wedding in late July, and I hadn't seen the owl after that. Last night, on my hike with Skipper, I saw it (or a new owl) again.

Skipper was off-leash ahead of me, and as I rounded a bend, I saw the owl flying away from the direction of Skipper. It landed on a high branch, and I called Skipper to me and took some pictures with my phone. Skipper started wandering away (just a few feet), and the owl came swooping down in that direction. I yelled and ran towards Skipper, and the owl landed at a branch just about six feet from me. I threw a large stick toward it to see if I could scare it, and, even though the stick missed it by only a foot or so, the owl barely flinched.

We live in Tennessee, and I think the owl is a Barred Owl. I've read about Great Horned Owls attacking large animals, but Barred Owls are apparently only 1-2 pounds. Do I need to worry about the owl attacking Skipper? She's 17 pounds with a lean, but very muscular build, so she would definitely not be an easy prey for a 2-lb bird. Do you think that the fact that the owl was so bold and overt means that it is being territorial, and not necessarily hunting for food?
 

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It sounds like it might have been defending its nest.

Barred Owls eat many kinds of small animals, including squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, rabbits, birds (up to the size of grouse), amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. They hunt by sitting and waiting on an elevated perch, while scanning all around for prey with their sharp eyes and ears. They may perch over water and drop down to catch fish, or even wade in shallow water in pursuit of fish and crayfish. Though they do most of their hunting right after sunset and during the night, sometimes they feed during the day. Barred Owls may temporarily store their prey in a nest, in the crook of a branch, or at the top of a snag. They swallow small prey whole and large prey in pieces, eating the head first and then the body.

Territorial all year round, they chase away intruders while hooting loudly. They are even more aggressive during nesting season (particularly the females), sometimes striking intruders with their feet.
 

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I sure hope that's all it was doing. It wasn't hooting or acting aggressively towards me.

I've read that owls can only carry something that is about 2-3 times their body weight, so if the owl is 2 lbs, its max carry-off meal would be 6 lbs. At 17 lbs, Skipper is way past that limit. The owl could still attack on the ground and do some damage, but hopefully it's too smart for that.

For now I've ordered Skipper a bright backpack that I hope will make her look bigger and less like a meal. If the owl ever does try to attack, I'm hoping that the backpack would give a little bit of padding. I'm probably paranoid, but I've always thought that owls try to stay hidden and undetected, so it's bothering me that this owl keeps on showing up on our hikes.
 

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I also think it has a nest or some fledglings around and is likely defending them.

I feel for ya though. When I used to live in the country I had a couple of hawks that included the meadow in it's territory, I used to love watching them but when I got Zody I dreaded seeing them fly overhead. Zody was 9 lbs and right at the weight limit of what they'd try and carry off.
 

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Yeah it probably is a nest. I've had owls of an unknown species stalk me while hiking, even without my dog, because they had nests nearby lol. I honestly wouldn't worry. Great horned owls have huge attitudes, and they probably would go for a dog under 10 pounds if they had the opportunity or were hungry enough. But a little barred owl? Probably not. Especially not with a 17 pound dog!
 
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