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‘Dive-bombing owl’ attacks cross-country skier in New Gloucester

Barred owl in flight, hunting for prey (Thinkstock)

NEW GLOUCESTER (BDN) -- Staff at Pineland Farm in New Gloucester are warning skiers this week of “an aggressive dive-bombing owl” that struck a man along a trail recently, cutting the man’s head and knocking off his hat.

The Campus Loop Ski Trail is apparently the nesting and breeding territory of a barred owl.

Outdoor Operations Supervisor Sam Brasier said Wednesday, although there’s a slim chance the bird is a great horned owl.

From January to March, and particularly during the early morning and evening, owls can become aggressive as they defend their territory and nest, so people are encouraged to avoid these areas, according to Pineland.

Pineland Farms, the site of a former state institution, offers 30 kilometers of trails, including, apparently, this nesting area.

“Owls are silent when they strike, so you will not hear it coming,” a post on the Pineland Farm Facebook page states. “If you must walk past a nest, wave your arms slowly overhead to keep the birds at a distance and wear a hat (or helmet) or carry an umbrella.”

Brasier said the owl is “a fairly good-sized bird,” but that neither skiers nor the two groomers on the trails each night have seen it again.

This isn’t the first time owls have attacked cross-country skiers in Maine. In 2009, at least eight skiers and a few dogs were attacked by a great horned owl in Bangor City Forest, prompting the city to install warning signs.

“I didn’t hear a thing and just caught a glimpse of a shadow after I’d been hit,” Jim Allen of Bangor told the Bangor Daily News at the time. “I didn’t sit around to see if anything was sitting up in the trees. I screamed, waved my poles and left. With my heart in my throat.”

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