Biologist explores the science behind owl attacks on Salem runners

by University Communications,

Tolstoy wrote, “All great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” This story has both.

Local surgeon Ronald Jaecks’ path lay through through the wooded darkness of Bush’s Pasture Park. It would be hours before the sun encroached upon night creatures' domain.

Undaunted, Jaecks understood that Superfandom takes sacrifice — and spandex.

Jaecks was months into a conditioning regimen for his role as a spandex-clad Superfan for the Green Bay Packers during their NFC championship game against the Seattle Seahawks. During his predawn run on Jan. 19, he found himself fending off an airborne assault -- the first strike by Salem’s now-famous, nocturnal avian hat-burgler, a barred owl nicknamed “Owlcapone.”

When the shock dissipated, Jaecks called his friend Dave Craig, a Willamette biology professor.

Craig knew an owl was behind the caper, and it didn’t take him long to track down the suspect. Like hats plucked from unsuspecting runners’ heads, the story took off after Alisha Roemeling’s colorful account in the Statesman Journal.

Check out these videos to learn more about the Salem owl that has garnered national attention: