Great Horned Owl photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash


By Charles Towne                  

Dull. My life as a professional small boy, zoo director, and wildlife photographer, has been anything but dull. In fact, it might be said that my survival thus far has been nothing less than miraculous.

What do I mean by that? I have been ripped, torn, shredded, chewed and gnawed on, mutilated, and otherwise abused by a broad spectrum of critters.

If it had teeth and claws, especially SHARP teeth and claws, it seems the fickle finger of fate was arranging an encounter that would not soon be forgotten.

If fishing worms had teeth, I would have been worm eaten long ago!

Then there are snakes, venomous and otherwise. Oh yeah, I have been snake bit, and since I am allergic to antivenin, there are certain risks involved beyond the obvious.

But then, come to think of it, I have never been bit by a skunk; it’s just not what they do!  But, I have been anointed by Mr. Stinky, and that is a definite joy and something you won’t forget real soon. And no, taking a bath in tomato juice does not help one iota, even a very large iota.

I have had the great joy of being bitten by dogs, cats, monkeys, possums, but never an armadillo.

I like animals, I really do. Some of them simply don’t like me I’m guessing.

But this tale of woe is not about any of the sweet denizens listed above.

Please join me in an encounter I had many years ago with that ‘tiger of the air’, the great horned owl.

I was peacefully meandering through the woods back in Illinois. (Meandering, if you are wondering, is an exercise that I do quite well.  Also if you are wondering, meandering could be confused with aimless wandering, but that day I was just meandering.)

On the day in question I was searching for that culinary delight, the morel mushroom, those delicious wild mushrooms, also known as sponge mushrooms because of their similar shape to the familiar sea sponge that grow throughout the North East.

It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying myself to the umpteenth degree, when suddenly something struck me a nasty blow to the head. The next thing I knew, I was bleeding profusely from a tear in my scalp!

If I hadn’t known better I would have sworn I was being attacked by a very large pterodactyl.

I want you to know, that hurt! Not only did it hurt, but I was foaming at the mouth mad when I realized that I had been attacked by a great horned owl for no reason that I could discern at the time.

I shook my fist at the back of the retreating owl, vowing revenge as I did.

Soon, I was on the way back to the location of the owl attack after going home to get my twelve-gauge shotgun. That owl was definitely in trouble!

I realize that owls are protected now, and for good reason, due to the fact they help to control the vermin population. But that was a different day, perhaps not gentler, but definitely different.

I had vowed revenge, and revenge I would have. But as I walked – excuse me, meandered – I began wondering about the cause: why had the owl attacked me?

Time heals all wounds, if we are willing to be healed, and after all, the blood on my head and on my face had dried, and the gash on my head would heal, eventually.

After a while, I discovered the owl’s nest up in an oak tree, and in the nest were two beautiful baby owls! As I stared at them, they stared back at me, with malevolent owlish eyes.

Thank God I didn’t shoot the owl that day, for after all, she was only protecting her babies… and I would heal, with the memory of the incident to remind me for a lifetime.


Papa God, thank you for your undying love for all of your children, large and small.  Thank you for teaching us your ways of love and compassion. Help each of your children to show gentleness and kindness even when we have been injured by word or deed. We love you Papa God. Thank you so much for your mercy. In Jesus Holy name I ask it, Amen

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. I love that story!! Mama Owl was just doing what God programmed her to do…protect her babies. You just got too close, even though you didn’t realize until it was too late. I am convinced that if we just think before we react, things would be much better….we would have a whole different perspective of the situation. Thanks for the reminder. God bless you!!

    • CSG, yes, you are so right. I was very fortunate. Mama owls are like that! And isn’t it neat that all these year later I have another adventure to share? Bless you my friend, Chaz

    • Dear NH, with an owl attacking I would need a suit of armor. I am fortunate in the sense that I don’t scar real easy. God bless you guys, Chaz

  2. Great story and as usual told while teaching your readers a lesson. Somewhat sad that we need to be reminded that, unlike man, God’s animal kingdom does not attack for thrill or fun unless man has taught them to do so.

  3. Mike, what is really sad is that so many folks today have their thinking all messed up. They would rather harm a fellow human than an animal of any sort. Sad isn’t it. Let compassion reign! You take care my brother, Chaz

  4. It’s true that animal life in nature may not always understand us, but Papa God gives us the intellect to understand those special creations. We can Praise God for the beautiful Prayer of love and unconditional compassion that you showed. God is Good! The story and those moments of reflection are inspiring. Thanks for sharing this story. J and

  5. Dear Jim and Mignon, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Your wise observations are well appreciated. God bless you both. Chaz

  6. Well Chuck, I have to agree with Mike on this one! I do not have your extensive experience but what I have come to understand is that animals are just being natural, man is the only critter that actually deserves or merits violence! Most animals are live and let live kind of critters unless they are protecting something, there is of course the wolverine who Papa God created to define the word contrary! But in general man is the only one who uses recreational cruelty! This is of course just my humble opinion!

  7. Richard my friend, as you say animals generally are content to go their own way, There are exceptions, Africa’s honey badger for one! they will face down an African lion. Absolutely fearless! As far as the wolverine is concerned they are notoriously over rated. My wife’s Uncle Milford, Move from Michigan to Alaska back in 1948 and homesteaded land near Valdez. He taught school and trapped and he claimed that wolverine were no more difficult to trap than fox, just harder to hold in the trap. He liked to trap them because the pelts were more valuable than anything else. It was many years ago that I stopped trapping because I finally got a heart.
    God bless you, Chaz

    • Talking about trapping, I had a friend who lived in northern Wisconsin, Tomahawk to be exact, and he once told me he used to run a trap line and he would try to trap raccoons because he could sell those pelts to the space program! I guess they would use them in the early missions to line the capsules because raccoon fur did not generate static electricity and this would help protect the delicate instruments in the early probes! Don’t know if it was true or not but it is an interesting story!

  8. That is a first for me, never knew that an owl would attack. Recently my youngest daughter was walking near a dense fir tree, heading toward her garden area and a big Barred owl zoomed past her to grab a rodent in the grass! It really scared her until she realized it was only interested in a tasty treat. At first she thought it was trying to attack her.

  9. Don Young, yes; the large predatory birds can be very protective. In actuality that is one of the things I like about them. I have raised several owls and hawks and always came away with a few new scrapes, gashes, gouges, cuts, and a lot of owl and hawk doo doo and whatever else they wanted to gift me. Years ago the state of Iowa gave me a bald eagle for rehabilitation. That was quite an experience. Bless you pal, Chaz

  10. Oh yes, and another thing that most folks don’t know, owls don’t have a sense of smell, which is probably a good thing due to the fact that the large owls absolute look upon skunk as a delicacy. Yep, they eat them up! The only way the owl is deterred is when it gets an eye full of the skunks perfume. Doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy! Chaz

  11. Turtles. You’ve also been bitten by turtles, snapping turtles too, and you were party to our brother Steve getting bitten in the rear. You had caught a large snapper and for some reason decided to spin it around and around while hold the tail tightly with both hands. The centrifugal force of spinning caused the snapper’s body to swing outward, it’s head too. Steve was especially daring and pranced close to the spinning turtle. Sure enough, the critter snapped and grabbed one of his butt cheeks. You know that opening a snapper’s mouth is impossible – Steve lost a bit of butt that day. Do you remember?

  12. Judith, all I can say about that is, Poor turtle. Dad was there when the poor innocent turtle chomped on little boy butt, then little boy hollered, dad hollered, and then it was my turn, and I hollered! Amen


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