New hazard for runners: Owl attacks

‘The Birds’? Runners Attacked by Owls.

In the past month, four runners have been attacked by owls in separate incidents, Runner’s World magazine notes.

Two of the attacks occurred near Washington, D.C., one in England, and one in Vancouver. Two happened at dusk, and two in early morning, by different species of owls. No one was seriously injured, but the 17-year-old British boy was knocked off his feet.

Four attacks doesn’t make a trend, or even a trendlet, but it puzzles Rob Bierregaard of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he studies suburban barred owls, nonetheless — especially because such behavior would usually be associated with spring, when owls are nesting.

If a runner accidentally disrupted a nest or came too close to a young owl, the attack would make more sense, said Bierregaard, who wears safety glasses and a lacrosse helmet when he works with owls.

Other experts suggested that the owls may have been birds that people had previously attempted to rescue, and therefore weren’t behaving as they naturally would in the wild.

Photo credit: Corbis

These accounts sound quite frightening. See this piece in the Washington Post. What is notable is the time of day when these attacks have occurred – the owls are active when the runners come through. Could it be that we are hearing more about these incidents where we didn’t before? Or are the owls moving into closer proximity to neighborhoods? Or are humans encroaching? As with encounters with bears, mountain lions, coyotes, wolves, etc. we must deal with sharing space with the other inhabitants. It does not always work out so well.

  4 comments for “New hazard for runners: Owl attacks

  1. daran
    October 14, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    Plovers attack too but that is when they are nesting.
    They have spikes on their wings to hit with and they are very maneuverable in the air

  2. Kate
    October 15, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Owls, even large ones, have been living in urban and suburban neighborhoods all along. They are built for stealth and active at night so unless they attack you they can be easy to overlook. When I worked as a zoo keeper we had a male snowy owl (solid white plumage , ~18in tall) escape and on the loose in an urban area for several days. Surprisingly few people even noticed him.. He was heavier when caught him so he was obviously hunting and active in the environment. Wild Great Horned Owls are slightly larger and live in urban areas – like Red Tail Hawks.

  3. Moose McNuggets
    October 15, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Well owl be danged. Who knew?

  4. LovleAnjel
    October 16, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    Blue jays are really keen to attack – not just joggers, but bicyclists as well.

    It might be that more people started running around that time of day, so the owls weren’t used to encountering joggers and got very defensive.

    (I will sheepishly admit to having been attacked by a butterfly once- the thing dive-bombed me unrelentingly until I ran away.)

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