Oregon’s Hat-Snatching Owl Gains Fame

The defensive Barred Owl has a national bad rap, personalized warning signs, accessories, and now, a nickname.

Earlier this month we reported on the dive-bombing Barred Owl in Salem, Oregon—an apparent lone assailant who attacked four joggers in the state capitol’s Bush’s Pasture Park this winter, likely defending its nest.

While stealing hats and clipping jogger’s heads, the owl has also attained national fame. In a Feb. 5 segment highlighting other weird events in Oregon (whose state motto happens to be: Alis volat propriis or, “it flies with its own wings”) MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow relayed the state’s most riveting news: There’s a Barred Owl “looming over the state of Oregon right now… silently and occasionally swooping down.”

After delivering the owl news directly from The Statesman Journal, Salem’s local paper, Maddow fretted over the vulnerable dusk-to-dawn jogging community. She lamented that existing signs that warn joggers of owl attackers are slightly lacking. So the television host devised her own yellow caution signs to be “a little more visually gripping,” she says.

After the design went up on the show’s website, much to Maddow’s delight, Salem secured rights to reproduce the sign and as of last week, posted 20 of them throughout the park.

It made some waves on social media, too—Audubon magazine’s own field editor Kenn Kaufman made a personal design edit:


The Statesman Journal decided that their now-notorious Barred Owl deserved a proper name and to pick one, held an online poll that ended on February 11. Coming in with 238 votes, the raptor aggressor was dubbed “Owlcapone,” with “Owlgetcha” coming in second, and “Rachel Madowl” a close third.

Though the Owlcapone won’t be sharing Maddow’s name, she seems satisfied with Salem’s decision to employ her warning sign scheme. (Maddow’s “angry owl” design is now printed on a t-shirt and, there's also an owl-themed helmet.) 

This hilarious turn of events may not be the best investment for the city of Salem: As previously reported, the Barred Owl is likely acting out because it is the species’ nesting season. The defensive behavior should calm in a couple of weeks.

There's always next year's nesting season, though.