Cross-country runners divebombed by owl on Maplewood Park trail

Hannah Norton, News Editor

If you look up the topic “runners attacked by owls” on Google, you will find approximately 400,000 results. Yet, no matter how many times it happens to others, we always tend to think, “Oh, it will never happen to me.” For five Liberty cross country runners, however, this Google search suddenly became a reality last week.
“I don’t know why I was attacked, but I think that the owl is probably just territorial and saw me as a threat, or a very large rodent,” freshman Haley Archer said.
Archer, as well as four of her fellow runners, were attacked by owls on November 30 and December 1.
“Honestly, I thought it was someone creepy grabbing my hair, because I was all by myself and it was dark,” sophomore Bailee Hawkins said. “Then I thought it was one of my friends, or a pinecone, but I never thought it would be an owl.”
Hawkins and Archer both felt the bird pulling their hair, although neither was seriously hurt. Each girl sustained a few small scratches on the back of their heads, but nothing more.
The area that the owl lives in is protected, which means that the owl cannot be removed, even though it may be harmful to people’s safety.
“I guess about the only way to avoid the attacks is to avoid the area for another month or so,” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Sergeant Kim Chandler said. “You certainly have the right to protect yourself by picking up a stick and trying to fend off the attack, but those owls are federally protected, so there has to be a really good reason for it.”
While runners still plan to run the same distance each day, they have been advised to change how they run, whether this means running in larger groups than before, wearing hats, or going different routes altogether.
“The owl has really changed my running routine. I’m going to pretty much be avoiding the forest entirely,” Archer said. “It’s really too bad, because I love running through the woods.”
“I don’t know that there is any definitive answer as to why these owls dive bomb people, but they are very territorial and although a runner or walker doesn’t look or act anything like another owl, it is something in their territory that they don’t like and they take action against it,” Chandler said.