February 7, 2023

No Longer the Butler Rather the Owl Did It

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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?