A Hat-Stealing Owl Has Terrified This Oregon Town

A Hat-Stealing Owl Has Terrified This Oregon Town
Source: DANIELLE PETERSON/AP
Source: DANIELLE PETERSON/AP

The joggers of Salem, Oregon, are living in fear.

Not of the town's high crime rate or escapees from the state's only maximum security prison, but of a menace that has attacked at least four people in the idyllic glens of Bush's Pasture Park. 

"I run in that particular park every morning because the trail is soft," one of the victims told the Statesman Journal. " I don't want to stop running there, but I have never been so frightened in my life."

What has the residents of this small capital city so frightened? The Statesman Journal has the full story: "An owl has struck again."

The crisis began in January. Ron Jaecks, a Salem surgeon, was enjoying his morning constitutional in the wee hours of Jan. 13 when his stocking cap was ripped from his head and he felt his scalp being punctured. "It was like a huge electric shock ran through my body, but also like I got hit in the head with a two-by-four all at the same time," Jaecks told the Statesman Journal. "Or maybe a strike of lightning."

Running and screaming through the park, Jaecks was attacked once more, this time without the protection of his hat. The culprit, likely a banded owl, has attacked as many as four people in the park over the past month. 

"I was running up a steep little hill near the softball fields and felt this sharp scrape," said Jordan Radke, according to the Statesman Journal. "I originally thought it was an overhanging thorny branch, but I've run that route a million times so I knew that couldn't be it." As in Jaecks' case, the owl made a second attempt to pummel the head of the jogger. "When it happened a second time, I took off as fast as I could out of the park," Radke said.

Rachel Maddow had an idea for the town: Post crosswalk-style warning signs in the park warning the people of Salem that an owl was on the loose. The design went from Maddow's graphic design team to the parks and transportation services manager, Mark Becktel, who told the Associated Press that Salem is posting 20 of the signs. "It's just making people aware that there's an owl there that for whatever reason swoops down and goes after people's hats," he said.

Owl strikes are hilarious but deadly. Owls have been responsible for attacks on humans around the world. Great Horned Owls have been responsible for blinding people in the United States, and a barred owl is the subject of a potent conspiracy theory regarding the death of mystery novelist Michael Peterson's wife (Peterson was convicted of her murder, but wounds on the back of her head consistent with talon marks and the presence of owl feathers have many ornithologists positing that his wife was actually the victim of an owl attack).

Brad Hilliard, one of the joggers whose hat was stolen, told the Associated Press that he hasn't given up on getting back his favorite cap.

"I'll keep buzzing by there until it turns up," Hilliard said. "I can't imagine a bird or a person wanting a sweat-stained hat I've had for five years."

h/t  Statesman Journal