Owl Slashes Washington Woman Twice Amid Rise in Unprovoked Attacks

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Jared Lloyd via Getty Images)

Hansville, Washington, resident Kirsten Mathisen knows the importance of daily exercise and time spent in the great outdoors. So, every day, she ventures into the woods near her home for a walk and a dose of nature. Recently, however, these typically tranquil excursions turned into nightmare scenarios when she suffered not one but two unprovoked owl attacks.

She had seen this owl before on her daily hikes and assumed they shared a mutual respect. Then one day, she was taking her usual walk through the woods and suddenly felt a sharp pain in the back of her head. “It felt like getting punched in the back of the head by someone wearing rings,” Mathisen told NPR.

At first, Mathisen couldn’t believe it. She and this owl had seen each other countless times – did it really just attack her for no reason?

Injured and confused, Kirsten Mathisen walked back to her house, where her boyfriend treated the wounds on her scalp with disinfectant. She then wisely made her way to the doctor’s office for a tetanus shot.

Back at home, Mathisen weighed her options. She decided it probably wouldn’t be wise to venture right back into the woods and instead gave the angry bird some time to cool off. “I just was like, ‘OK, I just won’t walk that way for a few days,'” she said. “But then, exactly a week later, on the next Saturday, I was on my driveway much closer to the house. And same thing.”

To her utter disbelief, the same owl had attacked her a second time. And this time around, it was far less gentle. Mathisen was left with five or six deep slashes on her scalp, copious amounts of blood spilling from the wounds.

Wildlife Biologist Warns Owl Attacks Are on the Rise

Now victim to two unprovoked owl attacks, Kirsten Mathisen reached out to wildlife authorities. Eventually, she received a response from wildlife biologist Jonathan C. Slaght, who gave her some unsettling news.

After examining Mathisen’s photo of her attacker, the wildlife biologist determined it was a barred owl. Slaght then advised her that this particular species of owl are “aggressive” and “highly territorial.”

Now, their territorial nature doesn’t typically affect humans. As barred owls nest in the cavities of trees, attacks are unlikely, as they’re usually well away from human activity.

Unfortunately, however, deforestation has caused their habitats to shrink. The once safely secluded owls are coming into contact with humans more and more often and feeling threatened as a result, causing them to lash out.

“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,” Slaght said. “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.”

Despite the repeated attacks, Mathisen completely understands that, by walking through the forest, she’s intruding in the owl’s home, not the other way around. As such, she doesn’t want any harm to come to the clearly terrified creature. “I don’t want the owl to be put down or something,” she said. “It’s very beautiful. It’s just a pretty b–ch.”