From left, Fran Einterz, Wilbur Bishop and Noah Landau jog down the Kettles Trail. All three have been attacked by an owl at least once. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Bird attacks along trail seem more than just a fluke

Noah Landau was on a normal run on the Kettles Trails when it happened.

“I was rocking out to some tunes, totally oblivious to everything around me,” he said.

Suddenly, he felt something scratch the top of his head, and then his hat was gone. When he looked up, he saw an owl flying above him, carrying his hat. The bird dropped the hat but was still nearby.

Afraid the bird would scratch him again, he picked up a stick and held it near his head.

Landau isn’t alone. Wilbur Bishop and Fran Einterz were running one day when an owl first attacked Bishop, then later, Einterz.

Landau’s wife Julie is also an avid runner, and she’s been swooped by aggressive owls on at least four occasions out on the Kettles Trails.

“I hardly run out there anymore, unless I’m with someone,” she said.

These combative animals are barred owls, which have a reputation for being more aggressive toward humans.

“They are a gregarious owl,” said Gary Piazzon, a former member of the Whidbey Audubon Society. He said when the birds are nesting, they will become extra territorial.

“A lot of times it happens to people running through woods; they startle the owl,” he said. “Any creature will become aggressive if it finds itself threatened.”

Nesting usually occurs in the spring, but this reporter encountered an aggressive owl on the Kettles Trail just a few weeks ago.

The Landaus, Bishop and Einterz said they have run on the trails for decades, but have only had these types of owl interactions during the past couple of years.

That’s because the population of barred owls is increasing on Whidbey Island, Piazzon said. The raptor is originally from the southeast part of the United States, but has been migrating here.

These birds live in forested wetland habitats, and the Kettles seem to be a popular area. Unlike other species of owls, the barred owls will often nest in close proximity and form a flock, or parliament.

There are some methods forest-dwellers can employ to avoid an owl attack. Following the advice of a raptor expert, Julie drew a pair of eyes on the back of her hat.

“Most animals will not attack anything that is looking at them,” said Piazzon. Julie hasn’t had any owl-related issues since using that technique.

Piazzon said it is also a good idea to make oneself small so as to appear less threatening.

Although they appear large, owls typically only weigh about a pound and a half, he said, so people shouldn’t worry too much.

“Appreciate the owls,” he said. “We don’t know how long they’re going to be around.”

Julie Landau wears eyes on the back of her head early Wednesday morning. She made the alteration to her hat at the advice of a raptor expert to avoid being attacked by owls after it happened to her four times. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Fran Einterz explains where on the Kettles Trails he’s encountered aggressive owls. He’s been running on the trails for 40 years, but just in the last two has he noticed this type of behavior from the raptor. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

More in News

Jeep rolls in front of hospital

A Jeep SUV hit a tree in front of WhidbeyHealth Medical Center… Continue reading

Islanders help victims of Kilauea

Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, landslides. And now, two Whidbey Islanders add volcano recovery… Continue reading

Field carrier landing practice schedule — Aug. 13-19

Aircraft carrier-based flight training operations are scheduled at Ault Field through Aug.… Continue reading

Photo by Jim Christensen.
                                The rented canoe is hauled ashore at a stopping point.
Man takes canoe trip of a lifetime

Jim Christensen’s summer vacation means getting away to the remote woodlands of… Continue reading

Photo by Maria Matson / Whidbey News Group
                                Peggie Suess will be celebrating her 100th birthday on Aug. 22. She sits here at Summer Hill Senior Living, ready for the day’s Bingo game.
Oak Harbor woman celebrates her 100th birthday on Aug. 22

On Aug. 22, Peggie Suess will celebrate her 100th birthday. The celebration… Continue reading

Whidbey residents on OSU scholastic honor roll

Students who made the scholastic honor roll spring term 2018 have been… Continue reading

Pigfest awaiting word from Guinness on largest BBQ pit

Scott Fraser’s goal for this year’s Pigfest was to have the world’s… Continue reading

SAR rescues climber

A Search and Rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island rescued… Continue reading

Most Read