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.
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.