Feb 16, 2017 I Paul Seaburn

Dozens of Dead Owls Found on Road in Idaho

It almost looks like they fell from the sky.

If only Harry Potter were real and here to help us, because this can’t be a good omen. A stretch of Interstate 84 in southern Idaho was suddenly covered with the bodies of dozens of dead owls

I saw a bird on the side of the road -- I thought it was a chicken. But then we saw more (road kill) and I saw the stripes on the feathers and it was not a chicken.

The sad scene was reported to KBOI 2News in Idaho over the weekend by Nichole Miller and Christina White of Boise. They, along with many other drivers who reported the same grisly sight, were driving on I-84 near Jerome when they began spotting the dead birds both on the highway and along the side of the road. The women counted at least 50 dead owls in a 20-mile stretch and believed that was just a small fraction of the total.

There was more and more and more.

There are about 200 species of owls living across the entire planet except for Antarctica and their unique eyes, faces and swivel heads has made them part of many cultural mythologies, whether they’re alive or dead. Owls are considered bad omens and harbingers of death throughout Africa and Europe. Many Native American tribes saw owls the same way, but some – the Yakama for example – considered owls to be powerful totems that protected the forests. In real life, owls are probably the world's greatest flying rodent exterminators – experts say one single nest of barn owls (Tyto alba) can consume 3,000 rodents in a season.

While there have been rare instances of owls attacking humans, the real danger goes in the opposite direction as the mythology of bad luck, real-life human expansion, development and hunting (in Malaysia, owl is considered to be a bushmeat) has put many species on endangered lists, allowing rodents and other vermin to take over.

Is that the warning the dead owls are delivering in Idaho?

Mike Keckler, Idaho Fish and Game spokesman, thinks it’s a possibility. That particular stretch of the interstate is known for an abundance of owl-attracting rodents and speed limit of 80 miles-per-hour (128 kmph), which means car-owl encounters are probably occurring at up to 90+ mph - a speed that’s fatal to owls.

This was confirmed in a thesis by Boise State University student Erin Arnold, who found that …

… one of the world’s highest roadway mortality rates for barn owls occurs along Interstate 84 (I-84) in southern Idaho.

erin 570x595
Erin Arnold and a healthy barn owl

She recommended on-the-ground mitigation to reduce owl deaths – a simple change in the length and type of vegetation along the freeway would prevent rodents from hiding there and attracting owls who end becoming road kill instead of diners.

Will this save the owls from I-84? From humans in their speeding cars? In the words of J.K. Rowling,

Don't count your owls before they are delivered.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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