Nov 04, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Owl Attacks and Dragon Invasions - Is Fantasy Becoming Reality?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes we are not ready for a zombie apocalypse, so it keeps releasing preparedness guides. If the organization fears real attacks by fantasy creatures, perhaps it should send dragon warnings to Albuquerque and Las Vegas – a new study shows these cities to be best for spotting a dragon. If the CDC fears real animals that also have fantasy qualities, it might want to issue plans for avoiding owls – after two attacks on one woman in a week in Washington state, a biologist warns these attacks are on the rise. What’s going on? Have we been streaming too much Harry Potter and Game of Thrones?

"It felt like getting punched in the back of the head by someone wearing rings."

That may sound like an interview from one of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, but it is actually a description of an owl attack – the first owl attack suffered by Kirsten Mathisen while walking alone in the woods near her home in Hansville, Washington. Mathisen told Oregon Public Radio that she’d never had a violent owl encounter like this before and wasn’t sure what to do. Her boyfriend cleaned her cut and bloody scalp, and a doctor gave her a tetanus shot just in case the owl had been carrying any disease-filled rodents in its claws. Being a typical Washington state outdoors lover, Mathisen got back into her hiking boots prepared to hit the trails again. This time, she never made it out of her driveway.

A barred owl coming in for an attack.

"What is going on?"

A week after the first attack, Mathisen was hit faster and harder close to home by what she was later able to identify as a barred owl (Strix varia) – a large, aggressive owl species common to the northeast and northwest parts of North America. This time the owl gave her six cuts that were deeper and bloodier. She posted her story on social media and found she was far from alone in getting attacked by owls. Of the many owl victims commiserating with Mathisen, one Washington runner had the best ‘If you can’t beat theme, join them” solution – she runs while wearing an owl mask on the back of her head.  Wildlife biologist and author Jonathan C. Slaght had bad news for both Mathisen and the owl.

"The more you reduce the places where an owl can nest, the more likely it's going to be nesting somewhere in close proximity to humans. If they're kind of amped up and a fox walks by, a deer walks by, a human walks by, whatever, they'll pop down and try to chase it off."

Slaght says she may avoid one attacking owl, but there are plenty more where that one came from because of the loss of habitat due to development, wildfires, climate change and other human causes. It is no wonder the barred owls are rising up against the Man, but Slaght thinks it is futile … for both the species and the one attacking Mathisen.

"I think she's doomed."

It doesn’t sound like even Harry Potter could help these owls. Fortunately, the same things that may spell doom for barred owls is actually making many cities prime living spaces for another creature of fantasy novels and movies ... dragons.

“Las Vegas' low number of fire departments per capita set dragons up for success. The high population density makes it easy for a hungry dragon on the hunt.”

The Shane Company, a U.S. jewelry store chain, commissioned a study to determine the best and worst places for dragons to live in the U.S. …. Or conversely, the worst and best places in the U.S. for humans to avoid being attacked by dragons. Dragons have different needs than owls, and one of the big ones is to avoid having their flaming throats extinguished. That is why Las Vegas, Nevada, is number 2 on the list of preferred dragon lairs – despite being hot and dry, it has a low number of fire departments. Pair that with a growing number of dinners – humans – and dragons are another thing that can happen in Vegas and stay in Vegas.

Take that, Las Vegas!

“Dragons in Albuquerque will love the high elevation, large number of cattle, and parkland areas to spread their wings.”

Albuquerque, New Mexico, is number 1 on the preferred cities list for dragons, which gives preference to areas with high elevation for roosting, plenty of parkland for hanging out, Not many aviation facilities competing for airspace, relatively low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions so they don’t self-ignite, a high population density filled with low exercising people that are easy to catch, no basements for hiding, and for variety, plenty of fat cattle. One other unusual criteria is plenty of pawn shops and jewelry stores because dragons like treasures. Would Shane be killing off its human customers by locating in prime dragon areas?

“High elevations, plenty of parkland, and few aviation facilities to cloud the skies create the ideal environment for dragons in Provo.”

Ased on Shane’s criteria, the high and dry western U.S. cities where people are flocking to are also the places dragons would flock to – Provo, Utah, came in at number 3. Boise, Idaho, Honolulu, Hawaii, El Paso, Texas, Denver, Colorado, Ogden, Utah, San Francisco, California, and Colorado Springs Colorado round out the top ten dragon cities. If any residents of these areas want to go someplace with less dragons, where should the flee to? How about Philadelphia?

“The City of Brotherly Love offers next to nothing for a dragon with a low elevation, tons of aviation facilities (26 in total), plenty of homes with basements, and relatively high GHG emissions.”

The City of Brotherly Love is actually number 2 for dragon haters. At the top of the list in Indianapolis, Indiana, because of its lack of pawn shops and jewelry stores. Yes, that sounds a it self-serving coming from a study commissioned by a jewelry store chain, but it also pushes Columbia, South Carolina (#3) and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (#6) because of their low numbers of parks, cattle and humans.

Perhaps barred owls and dragons should join forces in creating livable cities for each species. Dragons could rid the lands of those pesky humans owls hate, while owls could keep the parks free of rodents and other vermin that foul up the parks. Clearing the air of greenhouse gases would make the U.S. livable owls, dragons and humans too. Before you point out that dragons aren’t real and that should technically negate this study, zombies aren’t either, yet many take the CDC guidelines for a zombie apocalypse very seriously. The bottom line is that we all could use some common sense in making the U.S. a good place for humans, animals, cryptids and other creatures to live.

When it comes to knocking common sense into humans, Kirsten Mathisen knows an owl that is up to the task.

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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