Are Snowy Owls Friendly or Aggressive?

Snowy owls are not friendly at all. According to the study, there are a lot of reasons behind their unfriendly behavior. The first and foremost reason is their solitary nature. They are not affectionate with each other and with humans too.

Another reason is their diurnal behavior. They hunt at night and eat sizable live prey. That’s why they do not make friends and do not interact with other living beings. Similarly, they are very protective and possessive of their homes and families. It is because there are many enemies of their eggs and young.

Not just this, we have numerous interesting facts about the character of snowy owls. Either they are harmless to people, or they are hostile. What if they attack humans? What should you do if you encounter a snowy owl? Thus, there are many related topics that need your attention. So, let’s unbox the answer box!

What Is the Personality of a Snowy Owl?

Snowy owls are shy creatures. They usually stay silent and calm. But, when it’s their nesting time, they become very active and angry. They can attack intruders and sometimes they scream in order to protect their nests.

Snowy owls watch and search for their prey silently. Their flights are also silent. They are mostly silent, but the real surprise comes when they attack the prey with their unique hunting styles. They are popularly known as a symbol of curiosity and honesty. ~ Source

Sometimes they vocalize and even use different postures to defend their territories. They look small but they are strong birds that can even attack bigger animals without any fear. During the winter breeding season, the male snowy owls attempt to attract females by hooting loudly to warn off any approaching predators. ~ Source

Are Snowy Owls Safe to Be Around? How Aggressive Are Snowy Owls?

Snowy owl

Yes. Snowy owls are safe to be around unless you give them a reason to attack you or disturb them in their natural habitat. They can be aggressive at any time and can be a real danger to their enemies and intruders.

Snowy owls can be as aggressive as they can be; they can attack the eyes of their predators and intruders to make them blind and defeat them. We need to understand that they are wild animals. Whenever they feel threatened or cornered, they behave aggressively and become defensive.

Can A Snowy Owl Attack Humans?

Yes, a snowy owl can attack humans. However, there are only a few rare cases when snowy owls attack humans. According to Forest WildLife organization researchers, here is a fact about snowy owls’ attacks on humans:

“Snowy owls attack humans at night time. It is also when their attack is easiest for them because their vision is at its sharpest. However, their attacks do not result in serious injuries or deaths.” ~ Source

Do Snowy Owls Bite? How Strong Is a Snowy Owl’s Bite?

Yes, snowy owls can bite. Their strong, sharp, and curved beaks can cause injuries. It’s in their natural mechanism that they bite animals, humans, and other birds. Additionally, because they are raptors, their beaks are made to catch and hold prey rather than tearing and crushing it.

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The bite of snowy owls on humans can cause minor injuries or puncture wounds. On the other hand, if you find an injured snowy owl or any other injured or distressed wild bird, it is best to contact the local wildlife authorities or wildlife protection organizations.

Are Snowy Owls Dangerous?

Absolutely yes. Snowy owls are included as the most aggressive and extremely dangerous birds. We know that they genuinely fear all other animals, birds, and humans. This is due to their dangerous talons and great territorial and hunting tactics.

Snowy owl

According to the study, many reported cases occur when snowy owls attack hikers. Most of the incidents occur in the eastern and southeastern United States. Once upon a time, the residents of Purmerend (a Dutch town) were harassed and attacked by owls in 2015. They were strictly advised to carry umbrellas whenever they went out.

It is because the umbrellas can protect them (especially their heads) when an aggressive owl tries to attack them. There was fear of dangerous attacks at that time in the town. The reason was that “dozens of people claimed the attacks of snowy owls on them when they were wandering outside“.

What Are the Reasons Behind Snowy Owls’ Attacks?

There are many reasons and situations that make snowy owls attack humans. The most important reasons include the following:

  • If humans stay close to their territory.
  • If a human provokes a snowy owl.
  • If a human approaches their nests or nesting areas.
  • If a pet snowy owl gets angry at the visitors and the owner.
  • If a human attacks a snowy owl either to defend himself or to hurt the owl.
  • If the snowy owls feel threatened or provoked.

Thus, there are a lot of possible reasons why snowy owls attack humans.

Exceptional Case: An Owl Killed Human

According to the study, there is only one report in history that states that an owl killed a human. However, no evidence was found that conclusively proved that an owl was the killer. It was a suspicious death in 2001 of Kathleen Peterson and a barred owl was blamed for this death.

There were a lot of scalp and head injuries on the dead body of Peterson. There were also feathers found around his body. These were the reasons why barred owls were blamed for this loss of life. There were also reported cases of attacks by barred owls on hikers and joggers in the U.S.

How To Avoid a Snowy Owl Attack?

Snowy owls do not attack without any reason. Still, there are many cases where they attack humans from time to time without any reason. So, what do we need to do if a snowy owl attacks us?

Learning how to defend yourself is preferable to becoming terrified and coming under a vicious snowy owl attack. Here are a few suggestions from our experts that will help you be safe from snowy owl attacks:

Snowy owl

1. Cover Your Heads

This is one of the first safety precautions that will protect your face and head from snowy owl attacks. First of all, they mostly attack your head. They target the scalp and head.

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So, you need to cover your head, even with your hands or arms. Otherwise, their knife-like talons can work like a blade and cause head or face injuries and deep wounds.

2. Make Noise

Snowy owls have “dive-bomb” behavior in which they attack humans and others silently. They do this instantly without allowing them to escape.

This unwarned attack needs to give you time to get prepared. In this case, you can flail your legs and arms and start making noise. This action will disrupt the owls’ attack and they’ll retreat.

3. Clap Your Hands

If you clap your hands, the snowy owls will try to stay away from you. They have no idea what it is, but they will be terrified because it might be your fighting ability. So they will not try to attack you again.

According to the research, snowy owls have a fear of human noises like shouting and clapping. They can suddenly become unsettled. Similarly, flashlights or bright lights are also bad for them. They feel afraid and try to stay away from clapping sounds and flashlights.

How To Interact a Snowy Owl?

Here are a few guidelines that will help you interact with a snowy owl without creating any mess: ~ Source

1. Keep a safe distance

Distance is the first rule for interacting with snowy owls. We know people are curious to know about them; they want to touch them. But, keep a safe distance because the owls will not tolerate you if you cross the envelope.

If the snowy owls are showing the following signs, you must understand that they are about to attack you: ~ Source

  • Repeatedly staring at you
  • Fidgeting
  • Changing positions
  • Head bobbing
  • Hooting

So, distance is better than a mess. Back off from their areas immediately. If you are in your car, then stay in your car and watch them through a telephoto lens. For further details, you can watch the YouTube video below produced by the Ottawa County (MI) Parks Department.

2. Do not feed them, ever

This is one of the most dangerous acts that photographers and bird-loving people do. They feed the snowy owls to take their photos and to touch them.

However, snowy owls are afraid of humans. They can quickly attack humans, as they think of food in the form of humans.

3. Respect their property

People need to obey the signs of off-limits or closure options. The landowners usually fix sign boards saying “No Trespassing” as an act of courtesy. If they are in danger, you can only protect them by getting help from local wildlife authorities.

Moreover, snowy owls rest and roost in fragile dunes in coastal environments. These areas are closely found near foot traffic. That’s why people should obey the guidance of local people and respect the living areas of snowy owls.

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4. Be Quiet and Calm

snowy owl

The important behaviors that can startle a snowy owl are sudden movements, gestures, or loud noises. They feel disturbed and provoked by these human actions.

So, always stay quiet and calm if they are around and you want to see them without harassing them. Maintaining a quiet and calm demeanor can help avoid stress and fear.

5. Avoid eye contact

Don’t try to stare into the eyes of a snowy owl. Snowy owls take direct eye contact in the animal kingdom as a threat.

Therefore, you must refrain from looking directly into a snowy owl’s eyes. Always give them their space.


Can a snowy owl attack another owl? Do they fight with each other?

Yes, a snowy owl can attack other owls. They also fight with each other. They can injure and kill each other. The great horned owls are also like snowy owls in terms of attacking and fighting with other owl species and their similar species of owls.

Can a snowy owl eat other owls?

Snowy owls are opportunistic predators. They may eat other owls too. According to a study, cannibalism is observed in many species of owls. So, there is a great possibility that the hunters can be hunted by their fellow hunters.

Can you keep a snowy owl as a pet?

No. You cannot keep a snowy owl as a pet. It’s illegal in many states of the world where keeping wild and endangered birds is an illegal act. For example, U.S. laws are totally against those who keep snowy owls as pets.

They are powerful birds with dangerous talons, beaks, and hooked bills. All these reasons make them dangerous birds. Also, they do not become friends with humans. Cleaning up after them and feeding them are other issues that can cause major chaos. ~ Source

Can you touch a snowy owl?

You can touch a snowy owl, but it’s a risky act. Owl keepers and most rehabilitators are against it. These wild owls can hurt your fingers and can get out of control while attacking you. They don’t like to be touched, cuddled, or petted.

What to do if you see a snowy owl?

Give them space. Yes! It’s necessary and it’s the first rule of thumb. You can only watch them from a safe distance. Don’t try to get close to them. Secondly, respect their private property and try to move away from their areas. ~ Source

Do snowy owls fight to the death?

Yes, sometimes snowy owls fight to the death. They can furiously lash out against attackers, intruders, and especially enemies with all it takes to protect their mates, eggs, and chicks. Their disputes with other predatory birds like ravens, hawks, falcons, and eagles result in severe injuries or death. Thus, it’s only sometimes a triumph.


Snowy owls are unpredictable birds. We can’t predict their next move. They avoid unnecessary interactions with humans and other animals. We can foster a friendly coexistence between humans and wildlife by appreciating their beauty from afar.

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