© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Why more people are reporting confrontations between humans and owls


Turns out, more people are reporting confrontations between humans and owls in Washington and Oregon. Yes, you heard that right - confrontations between humans and owls. NPR's Jaclyn Diaz looked into this.


JACLYN DIAZ, BYLINE: Kirsten Mathisen was walking alone in the woods by her home in Hansville, Wash., when she was attacked.

KIRSTEN MATHISEN: I was walking on my driveway. And something, know, swiped my head. And I ducked and looked up - and this owl that I had seen before over the last couple of years.

DIAZ: This particular owl is white with gray feathers, a sharp beak and sharper talons. She waited a few minutes and walked back to head home. The owl wasn't having it.

MATHISEN: It flew back around, and it got me in the back of the head.

DIAZ: Oh, jeez.

MATHISEN: There was a lot of screaming.

DIAZ: She said it was like being punched by someone with rings on. To avoid the owl's wrath, Mathisen ceded one part of her property to the owl for a week before walking even close to the bird's territory. But then a week later, the owl attacked again.

MATHISEN: And that time, it got me behind the ear. That one was worse. There was more deeper cuts.

DIAZ: She had seen this owl before and never had any issues like this. What was going on? It turns out that barred owls have been blamed for several similar attacks in the Pacific Northwest. At least one park in SeaTac, Wash., warned visitors of the area's aggressive owl that attacked several people.

MATHISEN: I've been told that I must - it's a bad omen, that I should be on the lookout for something else to happen.

DIAZ: The reality is slightly less interesting, according to wildlife biologist Jonathan Slaght. He works with the Wildlife Conservation Society.

JONATHAN SLAGHT: They're aggressive owls, and they're highly territorial.

DIAZ: Barred owls like to nest in the cavities of trees.

SLAGHT: Like, any reduction in available habitat for breeding would put them in closer proximity to humans.

DIAZ: So what does that mean for Mathisen in the short term?

SLAGHT: It's not like forever, for her life, she's doomed. With humans, it's certainly not predatory behavior, but it's certainly a territorial aggression.

DIAZ: Jaclyn Diaz, on the owl beat, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.