North County family attacked by hawks; man's scalp ripped open in avian assault

SAN DIEGO - A San Diego-area doctor says he’s a prisoner in his own home, attacked repeatedly by hawks.

“You never think about being attacked by a hawk,” said Dr. Alexander Ataii.

But that’s exactly what happened to him, in his own front yard. Ataii just moved into his dream home in Rancho Santa Fe. But an unexpected guest has also taken up residence right on top of his remote control waterfall.

“I was minding my own business, cutting some shrub on my day off,” said Ataii. “It felt like being hit by a boulder, something hit me behind my head. As I turned around to see what it was, I saw a giant bird with a wingspan of at least four feet, turning around and coming back towards myface.”

He says the hawk’s talons ripped through his scalp, leaving a five-inch-long bloody gash. That was just the first attack, in the next 10 days there would be two more. Now he says he’s afraid for his 2-year-old son.

“I would do anything for my boy, he’s the love of my life,” said Ataii.

He told 10News he’s asked authorities to remove the hawk but they said there were restrictions. Now, he’s considering taking actions into his own hands.

“They said they couldn’t do anything about it. I’ve never owned or shot a gun before, but I did have thoughts when this happened. Owning a gun in this scenario wouldn’t be a bad idea,” said Ataii.

The problem is that hawks are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty act. Experts explain the consequences for violating it are serious.

“An individual under this act caught trying to move a nest, trap a bird, or kill one is liable for a felony, an up to $100,000 fine and time in jail,” said Denise Disharoon of West Coast Sky Falconry.

She along with her partner, Kirk Sellinger, train San Diegans to handle birds of prey. She said the ideal environment Ataii has built for himself is also perfectly suited for a hawk’s nest.

“There’s a high likelihood the bird will return to the same nest the next year,” said Dishraoon.

In fact, she says the hawk could return for the next seven years. It’s a fact Ataii is aware of.

“Every time I come outside I worry about this hawk attacking again. It’s inevitable,” said Ataii.

10News reporter Natasha Zouves called multiple agencies and spoke with John Turman, District Supervisor of Wildlife Services, about this case.

He said, “I don’t recall speaking with Dr. Ataii specifically but I understand this process is complicated and involved permits from other agencies. I’d be happy to speak with him again and find a solution.”

10News passed along his direct number to Ataii. 

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