Great-horned owl attacks on humans are not common, but they are well documented. The bird of prey is suspected of more than 50 attacks on humans, swooping silently from above and leaving many of its victims bloody and bruised. Peterson was out of earshot while his wife fought off the bird. But it’s not a joke. To continue reading login or create an account. Type in your search and hit Enter on desktop or hit Go on mobile device. If so, they would rely on Pollard’s extensive research of owl attacks on humans, as well as the testimony of specialists, including Kate Davis, executive director of Raptors of the Rockies, a Montana-based nonprofit. Less than two weeks later, another woman and her two dogs were attacked by an owl. They have a wingspan that can reach nearly five feet long, and their talons have a force equivalent to the bite of a large dog. Her husband called the paramedics at 2:40 a.m., claiming he found her lifeless body on the stairs in the family’s mansion. In the hazy morning light, he thought it was an enormous bat. She based her decision on the shape and placement of the victim’s wounds (a match to how the owl's talons would strike), the timing of the attack (in December, when owls are mating and highly territorial), the presence of the tiny feather (owl feet are covered with them), and the force of the impact. Spread the word. The Owl Theory essentially posits that a Barred Owl attacked Peterson, got entangled in her hair, and inflicted serious injuries, including the removal of part of her scalp, which triggered a series of events that led to her death after falling down a flight of stairs. After delving into the evidence, Davis was convinced that an owl had attacked Kathleen Peterson, setting into motion the events that would lead to her death at the bottom of the stairs. (Toxicology reports also found anti-anxiety and muscle-relaxant medication in her blood.) Pumpkin Bird Feeder Makes a Happy Harvest For Birds, To Help Birds This Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yard Work, Learn to Identify Five Owls by Their Calls, 10 Spectacular Owl Photos You Have to See, Help power unparalleled conservation work for birds across the Americas, Stay informed on important news about birds and their habitats, Receive reduced or free admission across our network of centers and sanctuaries, Access a free guide of more than 800 species of North American birds, Discover the impacts of climate change on birds and their habitats, Learn more about the birds you love through audio clips, stunning photography, and in-depth text. The species' three-foot wingspan is also formidable. "Attacks like these are not uncommon," says Rob Bierregaard of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he studies suburban barred owls. The stories about owls being evil and being a symbol of death to come have scared some people to the point of destroying any owl that they may come into contact with out of fear. “When you look at her injuries, they do appear consistent with being made by an owl’s talons,” Peterson’s defense attorney Mary Jude Darrow tells Audubon. The alleged murder weapon—found in the Petersons’ garage and presented late in the proceedings—was ultimately ruled out for lack of forensic evidence, and simply because it had been sitting in the same place long before and after Kathleen Peterson's death. If people unknowingly get too close to their nests, "owls may approach and even strike humans," Betuel explained. The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. Guillaume Souvant/AFP/Getty Images Some of the attacks … Or goes out of it's way to attack them - there is always a reason. An owl flies during a performance at the Zooparc de Beauval in Saint-Aignan, central France, on April 14, 2017. But the recent frigid temperatures in most parts of the country might be impacting the young birds, Susan Haig, a senior scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey, told Newsweek. It also spawned a criminal defense theory that sounds like a punch line: The owl did it. The victims of those strikes, which earned the bird(s) the name “Owlcapone,” suffered from multiple half-inch talon cuts. The first attack in the recent streak in Atlanta happened just days before Christmas. These owls may wear the same game face, but when it comes to personality, they’re as different as day and night. Mrs. Peterson weighed 120 pounds and the suspect bird in the Owl Theory, an adult Barred Owl, weighs between one and two-and-a-half pounds and can fly at speeds of up to 40 miles an hour. After all of this, while buzzed on wine and pills, she climbed the stairs, presumably en route to the master bedroom. Around the same time that Pollard was tackling the Owl Theory, Davis was interviewed for a story about a local raptor attack on a boy who had been sledding. The owl theory never made it to court. On December 23, the Holt family was left devastated after an owl killed "Freedom," their 5-year-old Yorkie. We asked the experts if it’s possible. "The majority of owls don't make it through their first year as they learn to hunt and survive in their surroundings," Betuel told Newsweek via email. The birds begin nesting in the winter, and after attacks in Texas, the Midland Reporter-Telegraph once warned readers that “the adults are very protective of the nest and the area around it and have been known to attack human passing by. Jennifer Maharry Maharry/Audubon Photography Awards, “The views expressed in user comments do not reflect the views of Audubon. National Audubon Society Our email newsletter shares the latest programs and initiatives. Regardless, Peterson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Let us send you the latest in bird and conservation news. Pollard’s timeline shows that Kathleen Peterson had been drinking wine with her husband by the backyard pool at night, and then headed through the house and into the front yard for reasons unknown. The victim then walked into the house; blood was found on the front steps and smeared on the inside of the door. In the past few weeks, owls have attacked humans or pets in Atlanta on at least three separate occasions. Visit your local Audubon center, join a chapter, or help save birds with your state program. A superior court judge will decide whether to dismiss the charge that on that day, Peterson, now 73, struck his wife in the head repeatedly with a fireplace tool, causing her death by blunt force trauma. Native plants provide birds with the food they need. "As soon as I touched the owl he got on me," Johnson told WSB-TV. When owls attack … humans Originally published November 15, 2006 at 12:00 am Updated May 8, 2007 at 2:13 pm In October 1997, I received the first … Some species of owls have been known to attack humans. The reason for this is twofold: The state improperly stored and thus contaminated crime scene evidence, including the couple’s blood-stained clothes, and also failed to order DNA testing of the victim’s clothes to rule out an attack by an outside party. It has provided fodder for two Dateline segments, a Lifetime movie, an expansive documentary film series, and dozens of true-crime television episodes and podcasts. You have 4 free articles remaining this month, Sign-up to our daily newsletter for more articles like this + access to 5 extra articles. Editor's note: This story was originally published in the fall of 2016 during Michael Peterson's retrial. "With the cold weather we have had in metro-Atlanta in recent weeks, it is possible that the weather added another stressor on birds already struggling to find food.". A grisly whodunit may rest on the oddest criminal defense theory in recent history. Relieved nonetheless by a non-human aggressor, Jaecks bypassed the hospital and went home to wash his head. It’s the least you can do. European eagle owl suspected of more than 50 attacks on humans in Purmerend, Netherlands AFP Fri 13 Mar 2015 21.06 EDT Last modified on Sat 14 Mar 2015 08.44 EDT Audubon does not participate in political campaigns, nor do we support or oppose candidates.”. “The injuries to the eyes, and the injuries to the elbows, and the little pock marks on her wrists, here and here, all are consistent with her having her hands over her head, holding onto her hair, because something is grasping that hair.”. Use our database to discover the best plants for birds in your area. That’s where the raptor attacked. In several cases, hats were stolen and the owl cut the person’s skin. Related: Bizarre Amazon Rainforest Bird Species Discovered to Be Extremely Rare Hybrid, Related: Frigid Temperatures Are Causing Iguanas in Florida To Fall From Trees. 25-Minute interview with Raleigh news station WRAL in March, Pollard laid out the owl just her... 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