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Faith and Inspiration

Great Horned Owl vs. Man

The ways of God and "The Tiger of the Air" are often mysterious


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, and 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 grows throughout the northeast.

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.

The Great Horned Owl, also known as the tiger owl, or the hoot owl, is a large owl native to the Americas. It is an extremely adaptable bird with a vast range and is the most widely distributed true owl in the Americas. For more information on this fascinating creature, go here.

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.


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  • rmsommerfeld

    An appropriate story for Mother's Day! I imagine you know better now but you must realize that owls HATE meandering! Meandering has no definable purpose, no particular destination, you cannot get from here to there by meandering, you can only get from here to somewhere "not here". I am certain you now understand the mother owl's reaction to the terrible example you were providing to her kids! But you can be proud of your part in demonstrating to her young ones that there are serious consequences to purposeless wandering! The next time you want morel mushrooms, have a definite search plan in mind, remember somewhere there is an owl watching!

    Monday, May 9 Report this