Washington woman left with bleeding head after being ambushed by OWL during stroll near home

'It felt like getting punched in the back of the head by someone wearing rings,' Kristen Mathisen said

Washington woman left with bleeding head after being ambushed by OWL during stroll near home
(Representational image - Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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HANSVILLE, WASHINGTON: A Washington woman was attacked by an owl while she was taking a stroll near her home. Kristen Mathisen was walking alone in the local woods by her Hansville, Washington home when she was ambushed by a white barred owl, causing six deep cuts to her head.

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After the owl "punched" the woman in the back of her head, wildlife biologist Jonathan C Slaght took to Reddit and claimed that owl attacks are on the rise because of the considerable decline in densely forested areas. "The more you reduce the places where an owl can nest, the more likely it's going to be nesting somewhere in close proximity to humans," he added. "If they're kind of amped up and a fox walks by, a deer walks by, a human walks by, whatever, they'll pop down and try to chase it off." 

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"It felt like getting punched in the back of the head by someone wearing rings," Mathisen told US media outlet National Public Radio.

According to Mathisen, the attack was unprovoked, as she was simply strolling about as she always does. She had seen the owl before as well, but there had never been a problem until when she was attacked. However, the scientist noted that barred owls, which usually nest in tree holes, are "aggressive and highly territorial," and that these traits may be reflected in their behavior during the pre-breeding season.

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Mathisen even took pictures of the owl that attacked her. After reviewing the photos and videos she had taken of the owl after two unprovoked attacks which had left her with a bleeding head, Slaght was able to determine the breed of the owl.

In order to avoid another encounter with the owl, Mathisen has changed her route. She also carries an umbrella or wears a hat to guard against another potential attack. But she expresses no resentment against the owl, saying, "I don't want the owl to be put down or something. It's very beautiful."

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Her Reddit post uncovered numerous additional accounts of violent barred owls from residents in Washington state. While the city of SeaTac has placed a notice in a nearby park to alert tourists to the dangerous birds, a runner in West Seattle reported that she has even resorted to wearing an owl mask on the back of her head to prevent being attacked again.

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