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When Owls Attack 

Last spring, bear sightings caused a stir at City Forest. This year, another animal is making its presence known – and not in a subtle way.”This is the area where the incidents occurred.”On the East Trail, by the railroad bed, at Bangor City Forest…Jim Allen got hit.”Yeah, it struck, right in the back of my head.”An owl – or two – thumping skiers at night.”They come down and thump people in the back of the head,” says Bangor City Forester Brian Dugas. “Quite hard, I guess.””Yeah it did, it sure did,” Allen says, “And as I screamed, of course, I knew immediately what it was.”Dugas has heard reports of at least eight thumpings, here and on the Grouse trail, including a daytime hit to a dog.”It is actually striking, with talons,” Allen says, “But I think in an effort to startle, not to obviously grab at something.””Obviously, we’re too big to be lunch,” says skier Dan Cassidy. “Most people are just getting a knock on the head, but there have been people who’ve had small lacerations on the head or on the neck.”Experts think it’s a great horned owl, just protecting its nest. But on a quiet, moonlit night, it can also deliver quite a shock.”The owls will typically come from behind,” Cassidy says, “And hit people, and then fly on.””A very silent attack, if you will,” says skier Jon Pottle.Rumors of “attack owls” aren’t scaring off visitors, but they are the talk of the park.”This is a wild area,” says Phil Joliat, “and that’s the way we like it.””I’ll just keep my eyes open,” says skier Lisa Kingsbury. They say the thumpings shouldn’t last much longer.”All the time I’ve spent in the woods,” Dugas says, “I’ve never had an owl thump me in the back of the head. So it’s a rare occurrence.”