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If You Hear Them Hoot, Scoot: Foul Owls on the Bainbridge Prowl

Article Date: 2007-08-08   Source:   Comments: 0

By Rachel Pritchett

Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S.A. - What might be a very angry mommy-and-daddy pair of barred owls are dive-bombing unsuspecting humans on south Bainbridge Island, leaving scratches on joggers' foreheads and forcing them into frightened crouches.

The owls are even stealing knit caps right off the noggins of innocent dog-walkers, then flying to high branches to gaze down supremely.

Recent reports of attacks from the avian kamikazes have forced island park workers to close a portion of trail leading into the vast, wooded Gazzam Lake Park. They've posted signs that read ''Danger. Possible Owl Attack!''

Of course, the signs were promptly torn down by other humans who weren't about to be told where they could and couldn't go in a public park.

Only concern for their children could make a mom and dad behave this badly.

This is no exception, according to Roger Belieu, parks services supervisor for the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District. He adds that they have a nest in the Gazzam woods.

"They're just protecting their young," he said. Belieu was the one who told about the jogger who got struck in the forehead and the dog-walker who lost his hat.

The owls turn nasty when their young begin to venture out of the nest, he and others explained.

South island resident John Grinter was enjoying a morning walk home from a south island cafe when he heard a whoosh from behind.

"I got dive-bombed," he said.

He turned and saw the culprit go into a tree.

A jogger came by. Grinter spoke with him about the owl watching them. As the jogger turned to leave, the owl came at him fast.

"I yelled, 'Here he comes!'" Grinter said.

But the owl was on the jogger, forcing him into a crouch.

Science teacher Jamie Acker of Bainbridge Island has been studying barred owls for a dozen years. In July, he counted at least 61 just on Bainbridge, his highest ever.

"Their population keeps going up," Acker said.

Barred owls are not native to the Northwest, but they were first seen in Washington in 1965. Their first sighting locally was in 1993 on Bainbridge, Acker said.

They had to go somewhere.

"They're getting pushed around because of habitat," said Mike Pratt, director of wildlife services at West Sound Wildlife Shelter of Bainbridge Island.

Not to fear too much longer. Once the owls are sure their feathered kids are out of danger and that they've been taught how to treat humans who get too close, they'll sweeten up.

"This will all go away in about two weeks," Acker said. The Gazzam trail should open by the end of August.

Meanwhile, it may not be a good thing if you hear a call from above and behind that an online reference says sounds like this: "Hoo, hoo, too-HOO; hoo, hoo, too-HOO, ooo."

It may be a visit from the owl also known in some circles as the "The Hooting Cat of the North."

Disclaimer: This article has been reproduced from and placed here for comment. is not responsible for the accuracy of any information in this article, and does not necessarily agree with the author's opinions.

Related Articles:
2009-01-29 - Cold, dark mornings rewarded with owl sightings by Kathryn True - Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S.A.

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