Dear Owls,

This past Tuesday, October 15, I was running along a wooded trail in Edmonds, Washington at dusk when I felt a subtle stirring of the air around my head and heard the muffled flutter of  something vast. I turned to see a placid white face fixed with bottomless black eyes descending on me between a pair of two powerful wings. 

Instinctively, I made a brief swatting motion in an attempt to shoo my strigiform assailant only to watch in horror as the bird hovered behind me like a ghost, undeterred. It swooped again. Viscerally aware of the sharpness of its talons and the delicacy of my eyes, I swatted again, torn between fight and flight (a human idiom which in this case means trying to deflect a large predatory bird or run very fast). 

When the bird insisted on swooping a third time, I committed. I began grunting loudly and tried to punch the plucker straight out of the air. When my feathered foe at last relented, I sped off, sprinting the rest of the way through the woods with my hands held above my head like a terrified cartoon character to prevent any further advances on my noggin. 

This incident marks the third time since moving to Seattle that I have been attacked or hunted by a member of your order, and I really think it’s time we talk about this.

The first time, I assumed it was a misunderstanding. I had been in Seattle for less than a week; you all didn’t know me yet. I was running in Discovery Park at dusk wearing mostly black; I was difficult to see. I felt a little grasp at my winter hat and saw one of you ruffle to roost on a nearby branch. 

No harm. No fowl. Mistakes happen. 

The second time, I was upset. I had been living in Seattle for over a year and had become a regular in Discovery Park. You all certainly knew me and my distinctive stride by then. The sky had barely begun to dim, and I was not straying from my usual course.

And yet, halfway through my run, I felt a sudden clutch at the back of my neck and the cold drag of claws across my nape. When I inspected my neck in the mirror that evening, there were a pair of thin, crimson cuts etched behind my ear.

My hair was long at that point and bounced chipperly as I ran. It would be easy to mistake it for a squirrel I told myself, trying to salvage my affection for one of my most beloved animals. Yet, I have grown comfortable at the top of the food chain, and I could not shake the cold sense of dread that I had just been hunted. 

After three attacks, I can no longer coerce myself into the belief that these attacks are accidental or convince myself that you’re just trying to deliver me my Hogwarts acceptance letter. Now, I demand to know why the owls of Washington State have chosen me to prey upon. 

I will have you know that you all used to be one of my favorite animals. I mourned Hedwig’s death at the hands of the Death Eaters. My friend mailed me an owl comic book for my birthday one year. My parents even bought me a pink felt owl ornament for Christmas. I named him Otis and have insisted on designating him the tree-topper in place of a frickin’ angel every year since! I really liked you guys! I was a fan!

So, when you all began hunting me, it felt like the cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race had started egging my house and slashing my car tires or like Lady Gaga had decided to cyberbully me. All I’ve ever done is love you!

I do not ask for an apology, though. At this point, I’m not sure our relationship can be salvaged. Simply seeing a photo of a barn owl sends a primal shiver down my spine. Trail running has become a paranoid practice of scanning the air space above and behind me for potential threats. The damage has been done.

I would, however, appreciate an explanation. What have I done to deserve your airborne ire? Did I make an accidental advance on one of your nests? Was it that time that I made an “owl’s well that ends well pun”? Or was it because I’ve stopped doing my Duolingo? I’m sorry! I know I haven’t been keeping the owl happy! I never even bought him the little tracksuit! I’ll practice Italian every day if it will literally keep you out of my hair! Just tell me!

And if I can’t get an explanation, could we at least come to some sort of truce and find a way to peacefully coexist in this ample, incredible city? 

Perhaps we could work together to draft a map negotiating the city’s trails into distinct running and hunting zones. Or we could devise a schedule for these activities so that I can log my miles peacefully and you can prey on juicy mice without worrying about an errant runner scaring them off. I’m confident that we can find a solution that will keep us all happy and unlacerated.

So, if you would like to discuss this matter, I will be at the South Beach overlook in Discovery Park this Sunday evening at 6:15 p.m. I will be the man in ski goggles and a thick turtleneck. 

I look forward to seeing you then and to putting an end to all the ruffled feathers and unnecessary roughness.


Gabe Gunnink


  1. Kyric Koning

    Man, runners can’t catch a break. That’s absolutely crazy that you’ve been “attacked” by owls so often. I hope you and the owls can come to an understanding!

    • Gabe

      Thank you for the kind sentiments, Kyric!

      As you can see from the comments below, though, negotiations have not been going well. All of these owls are clearly in ca-hoots and teaming up against me!

  2. Avatar

    Loved it! Stay safe while running and living.

    • Gabe

      Thank you, June! I appreciate it!

  3. Katie Van Zanen

    Nathan’s brother has ALSO been attacked, while running, by a Seattle Metro Area owl. What fowl beasts!

    • Gabe

      I wonder if we just have a particularly belligerent subset of owls here or if this is a problem around the country! I may need to start investigating….

      • Avatar

        In Edmonds!

  4. Avatar

    I always look forward to reading your posts! I also love owls, but have never been attacked by one. I looked up what scares owls and find they don’t like bright lights or loud noises so maybe wear a headlamp pointed up to the sky and carry along some noisemakers on your runs …..loud, bright and safe!

    • Gabe

      Thank you, as always, for reading, Linda!

      I’m thinking of knitting myself a hat with a hawk’s face on the back. Apparently, hawks and eagles are two of the few owl predators.

    • Avatar

      I got swooped on my bike w a headlight! No one believed me & I’m usually pretty fearless riding in all conditions. I now will drive to work until it’s light enough. Living in NZ for a couple years, you learn to respect the birds. They win. I don’t have wings & can look down on my prey. I wondered if it was bc it’s covid times but it sounds like this has been happening for some time. I’m amazed it hasn’t happened before but I hope I’m not unfortunate as you & have 3 incidents

  5. Cassie Westrate

    Love this. Sorry the owls are attacking you, but thanks for the laughs.

    • Gabe

      Thank you, Cassie!

      That my mishaps provide mirth for others is certainly a silver lining.

  6. Avatar

    What a pleasure it is to read your posts Gabe.
    My only owl story comes from my youth when I was in the Landover of my rugby coach on our way back from a match. It was dark. All of a sudden…the flash of a shadow. Indistinct…maybe a broken umbrella? And…bam! Cracked window screen! My coach identified it as an owl.
    Maybe some of the negative karma that I accummulated as a result of this crippling of one of the owl community (or even hibouocide) rubbed off on you when you stayed with us and is only now wreaking out its destiny.
    If so, I can only apologise on behalf of all rugbymen!

    • Gabe

      Thank you for reading, David! I always appreciate your comments.

      It’s a comfort to know that I have someone to blame this on now!

      Hopefully the tides begin to turn soon, though!

  7. Avatar

    Let’s get something straight, Gabe. We’re the descendents of dinosaurs, not you, mammal. We’ve been spotting these woods for millennia, long before you and your dopey headed compatriots could walk. We have talons! And people think we’re cute! We’re the definition of violent sleeper. Watch your neck!

    • Gabe


      Pleased to make your acquaintance. I will say that I’m extremely aware of your talons now and am quite impressed with the precision of your typing!

      Also, dinosaurs, you say? Remind me, again, how things turned out for them….

  8. Avatar

    Whoa, take a branch yo. Gabe, we’re the victims here. We used to stare, hoot, bob, and weave through trees twice as tall, until your species chopped them down. We had virgin wood! Now we’re relegated to these thin-trunked push overs (no offense). We’re doing our best.

    • Gabe


      I certainly apologize for the deforestation. That sucks, yo.

      However, could you maybe do your best on someone else’s neck?

  9. Avatar

    Gabe, what are you doing, running, anyways? For pleasure? Who has time for that? When we fail swoop your mop, we’re getting down to business. We’re hungry! We wait hours to spot just a morsel of food, and you come along with your elongated whistley-doo oblivious to the *work* happening around you here in the natural world. We don’t come to your workplace and just perch up on your cubicle wall divider, do we?

  10. Avatar

    The plucky thing to remember here Gabe is that I’d be clutch if you could give us some space. Consider it a construction site. Put on a reflective vest and a hard hat. We’re excavating some tail in these parts.


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