Bird attacks on joggers in NEJC most likely attributed to great horned owl; recent incident this week in Mission Hills

The great horned owl.
The great horned owl.

Imagine jogging along in your morning exercise routine and suddenly being attacked from behind, swiftly and silently.

It has happened multiple times over recent years in the Mission Hills and Prairie Village areas. The most likely culprit in these attacks: the great horned owl. That assessment comes form the bird experts at the Ernie Miller Nature Center.

Lisa Hendricks of Mission Hills was the latest to be feel the panic of the stealth attack when a large bird swooped down on her while she was running near 59th and Oakwood about 6 a.m. this week. Hendricks said she did not see the bird until she felt the impact and a sensation that something was scratching her head.

Stephanie Williams had a similar experience four years ago, also running in Mission Hills just before 6 a.m. Williams was hit twice and didn’t realize what had happened until a car driving by stopped and the driver said, “that owl just nailed you.”

“Let me say, I thought I was being shot at … really powerful impact and I did not hear or see it coming,” Williams related. The attack happened in September at about 59th and State Line Road.

Joanne Yun’s encounter with an owl happened five or six years ago, she said. She was running and it was fall. Not only did the owl swoop down at her, it nabbed her favorite Patagonia ball cap from her head and made off with it. Here is how she tells the story:

“I was running north toward old Mission Hills (on Ensley north of 63rd Street) when an owl swooped at me but didn’t touch me.  He flew up and landed on a lightpost so I could easily see it was an owl.  It was about 5:30 in the morning, so I would not have been able to see the owl had it not been for the light.  After doing my loop, I came back down the same street on my way home, and that was when he hit me in the back of the head and flew off with my favorite ball cap.”

A fourth Shawnee Mission Post reader said they were aware of a similar event at 71st and Tomahawk a couple of years ago – again involving a runner.

To the folks at Ernie Miller, this is the behavior of a great horned owl, most likely defending a nest with young ones in it. They said early morning is hunting time so the owls will be active, but they would not intentionally go after a human unless they were defending young in the nest and the runners unknowingly happened past. They usually are afraid of people, they said.

The great horned owls, which can grow quite large, are predators, though, and can pick up cats, small dogs and will attack other birds, they said. More on great horned owls is found here.

They are also well known to live in the Mission Hills and Prairie Village areas.