January 27, 2023

No Longer the Butler Rather the Owl Did It


Owls, and perhaps in particular great horned owls, are nothing we humans should want to mess with. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, great horned owls are noted for their ferocity.

Great Horned Owls kill and eat small to medium mammals of many kinds, especially hares and rabbits. They eat mice, rats, squirrels, opossums, woodchucks, bats, weasels, and the occasional domestic cat. Great-Horned Owls also eat skunks, which are sometimes such a prominent part of the diet that both bird and nest may smell of musk. Although mammalian prey typically comprise more than three quarters of the diet, more than fifty species of birds have been recorded as prey. In addition to hunting small songbirds, Great Horned Owls have been known to eat large birds such as grouse, herons, ducks, Canada Geese, hawks (including Red-tailed), and even other species of owl. A woodland with resident Great Horned Owls usually lacks any other raptors in the immediate vicinity.


In March of 2009, outdoor writer for the Bangor Daily News, John Holyoke, crafted an article about how the City of Bangor’s Rolland F. Perry City Forest was the site of attacks on humans by a nearby nesting great horned owl. It appears from this story, as well as others, that these owl attacks were happening from behind and to the heads of the people. OUCH!


In yesterday’s edition of the Bangor Daily News, the same outdoor writer, John Holyoke, picks up his story about the owl attacks on humans of 2009. He tells us that three years after his 2009 story, he did a radio interview with a woman in North Carolina who was interested in the owl attacks. It seems that a North Carolina man had been accused of murdering his wife. The man was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life in prison.


A neighbor of the victim and the accused, being a lawyer, out of curiosity wanted to examine the evidence in the case. When he did, he found microscopic owl feathers mixed in with the victim’s blood.


On January 31, 2014, the same woman who had interviewed Holyoke back in 2009 created her own Online radio broadcast called Criminal. Her first episode, called Animal Instincts, deals with the case of the man accused of killing his wife. In the broadcast, Phoebe Judge, founder of the radio show, interviews the lawyer neighbor about his investigation into the murder case and includes a short interview with John Holyoke that had taken place previously about owl attacks on humans.


It now appears the accused had his original case vacated due to a technicality and is awaiting a new trial. It appears that this new evidence, along with a theory that the woman was attacked outside her house by an owl and then ran inside and died, will be presented in the new trial.

Can we no longer say, “The butler did it?”

*Note* If you listen to the radio broadcast in its entirety, the second part of the broadcast deals with historic accounts from the 14th and 15th centuries when animals were treated like humans in regards to criminal activity. One case involves a pig that was accused of killing a small boy, was found guilty in a court of law and the judge sentenced the pig to be hung in the public square.

I wonder if anybody ate the pig?



Go To The City to View Wildlife

homereagles - CopyYesterday, or I should say last evening, was an interesting time here in the community where I live in Florida; a community nestled among about 80,000 people citywide and about a million countywide. I have written about the abundant wildlife I find sharing space with all these people here.

I grew up in the country in the state of Maine. I lived in the woods and saw my share of wildlife but for many species, viewing that wildlife in Maine, then and now, pales in comparison to the abundance I find here.

I’ve written of the coyotes and shared photos of hawks, etc. But last evening, in between thunder storms, I went on a bicycle ride around the neighborhood. I rounded one corner just as a large bald eagle was flapping his wings to land on the light pole above my head. I stopped and got off the bike and we had a conversation….well, actually it was more of a monologue.

I told the eagle that he had much prey to choose from in this neighborhood. I encouraged him to go find the coyote dens and pointed in the general direction. There he could find pups that would make excellent table fare.

We have tons of wild rabbits in our community, which is, I’m sure, the main reason the eagle was visiting. In addition I tried to entice the eagle to go after the cats, especially the ones that come to my house and piss in my flower gardens and leave a nasty smell. And then there are the dogs, the yappers. Please Mr. Eagle, couldn’t you do something about that? There are plenty of them and the ones where the owners open their front doors and let their doggies run free dumping and peeing on everyone’s lawn. Yummy! Wouldn’t those taste good?

Ok, I’m getting off the subject here.

I observed the massive bird for quite some time, until he flew off, making a few circles before he disappeared among the trees in the distance near where the coyotes hang out.

I crawled into bed about 10:00 p.m. and fired up my Kindle. Yeah, yeah, yeah! I’m still working on getting through Gangs of America. But I’ve had other reading assignments.

As I settled down, trying to get my head in the right position so I wouldn’t be so uncomfortable I wouldn’t want to read and yet just so, so that when I fell asleep reading, the Kindle wouldn’t fall and hit me on the nose, I heard a noise.

The noise was feint. Enough so that I couldn’t tell if it was a mourning dove sitting on my roof cooing himself to sleep or something else. I tried to ignore it but I’m anal with such things.

I got up and turned on my fan thinking it would drown out the noise enough that it wouldn’t distract me in my reading and more importantly, keep me from falling asleep.

That didn’t work. I knew I was going to drive myself crazy if I didn’t go chase this thing away. So, I got up and threw on my shorts and headed outside, craning my neck up toward the roof looking for the cooing, whooooing culprit.

Then came the distinct, whoo, whoo, whoo-whoo-whoo! It was just down the street a bit. I walked in that direction. He wasn’t too far away but I couldn’t fix my eyes on it. Surely an owl but I’m not sure what kind. He, or she, hooted repetitiously, the same cadence for several minutes as I listened. What was he doing this for?

And then off in the distance came the return of hoots, seemingly an echo of what I was hearing from the owl closest to me. This continued for some time, even as I retreated to my house and back to the bedroom.

Crawling back into bed, fan still running and Kindle waiting my return, I went back to reading, still hearing the hoots outside.

Odd that had I heard this at my camp in Maine, it would have been cool. Hearing it here was cool but somehow a bit annoying.

When I turned out the light to go to sleep, I listened intently but it appeared the hooting was gone.