BANGOR, Maine — Cross-country skiers who set out on a crisp, moonlit night for a peaceful outing in Bangor's city forest are being targeted by a least one ornery and territorial owl.
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Over the past three weeks, at least eight skiers and a few romping dogs apparently have fallen victim to a great horned owl that swoops down from a tree with talons outstretched and smacks them on the head.
Jim Allen of Bangor said he was skiing in the dark on East Trail in the Rolland F. Perry City Forest when he got hit.
"I've got my headlamp on, and all of a sudden, I felt a whack in the back of my head and this stinging, and I understood what everybody was talking about," said Allen, who said he screamed and waved his poles. His thick winter hat protected him from scratches.
Others haven't been so lucky. Dr. Dan Cassidy, a local physician and avid night skier, said three skiers suffered small lacerations, but none needed stitches to close their wounds.
Cassidy has been documenting owl attacks after one of the noctural birds swooped down on him in nearby Orono in January. He was able to identify it as a great horned owl, and he and others suspect that one or more of those owls are the culprits in the Bangor attacks.
"It's the boldest noctural raptor and the one that has the best reputation for the occasionally bizarre," said Charlie Todd, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
City Forester Brian Dugas posted warning signs Friday at three entry points to the forest, alerting skiers and hikers about the threat of owl attacks.
Allen has been back in the forest twice since Tuesday's owl attack, an incident he says he won't soon forget.
"They say ... there's no sound at all when an owl flies. So you don't hear them coming," he said. "I believe it. Because I never knew anything was coming. I was just skiing merrily along."
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