Among the things that unnerve me when I’m out in the dark on a run, wild animals are marginally high on the list. Not so much in the sense that I think I might be attacked by one, but more so that I hate the idea of something popping out at me.
Raccoons, rats, and squirrels…all of them have made me jump at one time or another while on the run. However, it’s more the shock of the scurrying creature* that scares me, not so much that I’m scared of them.
*Bunnies are an exception. I love them all.
However…perhaps I should think twice from now on. A few weeks ago, I came dangerously close to an animal attack, and it was from an animal I had not only never seen in the area…but one that I didn’t even know was interested in threatening humans.
Yes… that beautiful, wise, cooing bird that represents many an ancient symbol and omen gave me the biggest scare on a run I’ve ever had.
Let’s back up. A lot of my runs start off by going down a well-lit, steep, 1/2-mile long hill. It’s always a pleasant way to begin and tricks me every time into thinking the whole run will be easy.
One particular morning, as I started heading down said hill, I glanced up at a light post and saw an OWL perched on top. Cool! A real life, wild owl! I stopped and stared, watched him(her?) gracefully flap over to the light post behind me, and for the briefest of seconds, we made eye contact. How peaceful, right?
I then carried on, probably reveling in the mysticism of my owl sighting, when I saw a shadow coming up behind me. In the moment, I don’t think I realized what it was, but a second later I could see an enormous wingspan out of my peripheral version. I snapped my head up and saw the owl barely 6 inches above me!!! In all one move, I came to a dead stop, yelped, and ducked, which therein caused the owl to retreat and fly up and out of sight.
My run immediately turned into speed work as I bounded away as fast as possible. Cartoon-like visions of the owl grabbing me in his talons and carrying me into the trees for breakfast were flashing before me, along with other completely rational potential news headlines:
“Runner Loses Eyes in Owl Attack”
“Girl Threatens Pacific Northwest Wildlife, Pays the Price”
“West Seattle Local Disappears, Police Investigate Regional Nests”
In all seriousness, it was horrifying. I’m pretty certain that had I not realized what was happening and screamed a little, the owl would have taken a good peck at my head. I’d never, ever heard of this kind of instance before, but then THIS news story came out (in Seattle mind you), and I felt a little more justified.
So be warned, people. Sometimes it’s not just the street-level threats to worry about in the darker hours, but what’s above too. Also, making eye contact with a predatory bird is probably not the best safety measure.
PSA for the day: Not all owls are like the Winnie the Pooh Owl.
Stay safe and protect your noggins!