A HUGE owl said to be capable of killing pet cats and dogs is on the loose in a Perthshire town, according to locals.
The European Eagle Owl – which has a wingspan of six feet – is thought to have escaped from a private owner as the birds are not believed to live in the wild in Scotland.
A wildlife ranger was alerted to its presence after being telephoned by a concerned resident of Blair Atholl who photographed the mystery bird perched on a chimney pot.
Polly Freeman, a ranger on Atholl Estate, has posted online an image of the bird, which is normally found in continental Europe.
Ms Freeman said: “This one is definitely a falconry bird , as it’s got leather tresses on its leg. I would imagine someone wants it back, as they are quite expensive.”
She added: “it is not meant to be living in the wild and we don’t know how good it is at fending for itself, especially when it’s this cold. I have spoken to someone who is going to try to catch it. ”
Tommy Horne, owner of the Birds of Prey rescue centre near Inverness, said: “It wouldn’t carry a big dog away but it would carry a smaller dog or a cat away in its claws. I don’t think it would bother though.
“They are seen as the devil bird but they are not, mine are really gentle. It’s a wonder the owners haven’t been in touch with the police. ”
However Adrian Hallgarth, who owns the Phoenix falconry centre in Perthshire, has said that if it is not caught, the owl may well “settle down”, find a mate, and start breeding.
He said: “These are an indigenous species – or they were. I expect it will settle down, get a mate and start to breed. There are around 1000 eagle owl owners in Scotland. They’re the cheapest of all the birds people can get. You do get a lot of it unfortunately. It can happen.”