A European eagle owl. (Ben Stansallben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

A massive, winged creature is on the prowl, swooping down and attacking the good people of the northern Dutch town of Purmerend and sending them to the hospital. The reign of terror has become so bad that the town has advised its residents to walk around with umbrellas at night, for fear that they could become victims, Agence France-Presse reported.

On Tuesday night, the owl attacked a trainer and an athlete who were out for a run, Dutch public broadcaster Nos reported. One of the victims was left with head wounds that required stitches, AFP reported.

The owl had attacked other members of the athletic club just the night before, in what's become a weeks-long problem. The owl is also thought to be responsible for 15 attacks at a nearby home for the intellectually disabled, AFP reported.

"During the day there's no problem, but at night we now only venture outside armed with umbrellas, helmets and hats, anything really, to protect ourselves," the center's spokeswoman, Liselotte de Bruijn, told AFP. "The problem is that you don't hear the owl before it strikes. Its claws are razor-sharp."

"We hope the city will soon catch this rogue bird," she added.

In a statement, the town council said the owl may have once been kept in captivity. And that makes sense; the bird may be used to being around humans and associating them with food.

The European, or Eurasian, Eagle owl, is one of the world's largest owl species, with a wingspan of more than six feet. The animal feasts on small mammals such as rats and rabbits, as well as, in some instances, young deer.

The town will seek an exemption to catch the bird, given that it is a protected species, Nos reported. The bird's status, however, is ranked as "least concern" by conservationists.

"We want to catch the owl as our city's residents are in danger," the town's statement read."These procedures can still take some time. Meanwhile, we are advising people to stay away from the owl."

According to the nonprofit Peregrine Fund, a conservation group focused on birds of prey, eagle owl populations dropped during the first part of the 20th century, with humans hunting them. The bird's numbers have improved since then, but they are still subject to electrocution and getting hit by cars.


A Bengal eagle owl. (Emily Goodall)

A Turkmenian eagle owl (Jeff J. Mitchell/Reuters)

An eagle owl is pictured at a zoo in Mulhouse, eastern France. (Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images)