By Shelby Sebens
PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) – Oregon officials are warning early morning joggers and park visitors in the state capital Salem to watch out for an owl who has an affinity for hats after at least four people were attacked in a month.
No one was seriously hurt in any of the incidents, but Brad Hilliard, 36, was one of at least two joggers to have lost headgear in a brush with the bird.
“It was kind of amazing how it just swooped down and grabbed my hat like that,” Hilliard told Reuters of how he became the acquisitive avian’s latest victim early one morning this week.
“It just pulled it right off my head like it was nothing!”
Keith Keever, the city’s parks superintendent, said officials had never heard of a case like it before.
Members of the Audubon Society, a bird conservancy group, a say the bird is a barred owl and believe that just one owl is the culprit, Keever said, and that it could be more aggressive because it is nesting season.
Originally from the east coast and first seen in Oregon, Washington and California in the 1970s, barred owls have been blamed for pushing out the endangered northern spotted owl.
The bird in question has targeted runners near Bush’s Pasture Park, where signs now warn people to avoid jogging before dawn or, jokingly, to consider putting on a hard hat.
Hilliard said he has been back a couple of times this week to look for his cap. “It hasn’t turned up yet,” he said. “I just assume it’s being used in a nest!”
(Reporting by Shelby Sebens; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)