Owl vs Owl

A barred owl, such as this one shown at the Miami Science Museum in 2011, has returned to the scene of its crime, Salem, Ore., where it attacked joggers last winter. The 'attack owl' is now turning its talons on state government workers. (The Associated Press)

An owl that achieved notoriety last winter for attacking joggers in an Oregon park has returned and is turning its talons on government workers, state officials said.

The barred owl has clawed at least three people outside the state Capitol in Salem in a series of attacks since late November, city parks department spokeswoman Tibby Larson said.

"It's silent. You're just walking along, minding your own business, and an owl comes silently at you from behind," Larson said.

'Everybody loves the owl — well, I'm sure those whose heads are clawed up don't, but everybody else.'
- Tibby Larson, Salem, Ore., parks department

Although rare, owl attacks are not unheard of across the United States. Several attacks on joggers were reported in a Maryland park in October, and an owl attacked a Louisiana police officer on Christmas Eve, according to media reports.

The Oregon attacks are taking place near state government offices in Salem, but the owl is probably more interested in impressing potential mates than in making a political statement, Larson said, noting such attacks occur during courtship season.

"If you're in that neighbourhood, we're advising you to wear a hat or carry an umbrella," she added.

Salem's aggressive barred owl first struck residents last January and February in incidents that inspired MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow to unveil an "attack owl" street sign on her program.

Maddow granted the Salem city parks department permission to print the image on actual street signs, which have been posted in areas where the owl has struck, Larson said.

Sales of "attack owl" street signs have raised more than $20,000 for local parks, and local brewery Gilgamesh Brewing paid tribute by naming a pale ale it released this year "Hoot Attack," Larson said. The barred owl is also known as the hoot owl.

"Everybody loves the owl — well, I'm sure those whose heads are clawed up don't, but everybody else," she said.

While the injuries have been minor in this year's attacks, the scratches have the potential to become infected, she said.

Police in Salem are monitoring things, but "we haven't arrested any owls," said spokesman Lt. Dave Okada.