WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — At least six early morning runners who use Runnymede Road in Winston-Salem have reported being attacked or having their hats taken off their heads by a large owl over the past two weeks.
All of the incidents have happened between 5 and 5:30 a.m. The runners say the large bird swoops down behind them and either taps their head, pulls their hair, steals their hat or in two cases actually scratched their scalp.
Mitch Monroe has been attacked by the bird 4 times over several days in almost the exact same spot. He’s had two hats taken.
“He just swoops down and grabs the hat with his talons and the first time happened, or every time, I can hear the cloth starting to rip,” said Monroe.
Monroe said the bird came after him one morning with no hat on, “I saw him fly off and circle back to the left. I saw him land and he’s about 2 or 3 feet tall. He’s a big bird, a real big bird.”
Jamie Schumacher was hit by the owl last Wednesday morning.
“It came up from behind and it was in my hair and that’s when I thought it was someone attacking me and then I saw it fly off. It scratched part of my head and broke the skin at one part,” said Schumacher.
The nearby William G. White YMCA is telling runners to be on the look out for the bird.
Wildlife experts across the country have varying opinions as to why the owls may be attacking since similar incidents have happened in Washington and Tennessee.
Experts at SciWorks in Winston-Salem speculate it’s a Great Horned Owl that is perhaps threatened by the runners or sees the hats as some type of prey.