SALEM, Ore. -- It's starting to look like Owlcapone is back.
Or at least another aggressive owl defending its territory.
At the beginning of this year, a barred owl began attacking joggers in Bush's Pasture Park. The "angry owl" became a Salem sensation that spread nationally after Rachel Maddow picked up the story.
Dubbed Owlcapone by Statesman Journal readers, the bird of prey became immortalized through warning signs at the park, T-shirts and several beers named in its honor.
Not even a year later, angry owls are back and appear to have expanded their range.
Dwight French, who works for the state Water Resources Department, said he was leaving his office just after 5 p.m. Monday when he was attacked. He was slowly jogging from his office in the North Mall Office Building, at 725 Summer St NE, to the parking garage under the Cecil Edwards Archives Building.
He felt a bump on the back of his head. He turned around and saw an owl fly into the trees and stare at him, he said.
"I thought, 'That's weird. I just got bumped on the head by an owl,'" he said.
As he was crossing Summer Street NE, the owl hit him again, harder this time. Seconds later, it struck a third time.
"At the moment it was just really bizarre and kind of scary for a minute," he said.
He picked up his pace and ran to the parking garage. He didn't feel any blood so he headed home to Canby.
The owl left behind several little cuts about a half-inch long. With French's short hair, it looks like he "got a really violent haircut or something," he said.
Tuesday morning when he went to report the attack to the building's facility manager, a coworker overhead and said the same thing happened to him the week before.
French said he might walk on the other side of the street for a while and use an umbrella to shield his head. He joked about starting a support group for other owl attack survivors.
At least two attacks have been reported in the area, said Julie Curtis, public information officer for the Department of State Lands.
Those attacks occurred about a mile and a half north of where the attacks were reported in January.
"It's the right time of year for the barred owls to become territorial," said David Craig, a biology professor and animal behavior specialist at Willamette University.
Now is the time of year when owls and eagles are courting and establishing their territory, which makes them aggressive. They lay eggs as early as February. The really healthy birds are starting to be territorial now, he said.
Craig said there was a sighting of a barred owl by the Willamette Heritage Center, 1313 Mill Street SE, three weeks ago and a barred owl that had been hit by a car was reported two weeks ago by High Street and Rural Avenue SE.
On Oct. 29, a barred owl was spotted along the banks of Mill Creek near state buildings during the afternoon, Curtis said. Employees were excited to see it in daylight so close to their offices. Curtis said she didn't remember anyone being afraid of it then.
"It was just really kind of cool to see a bird that beautiful so close by," she said.
There's no way of knowing if the recent sightings are of the notorious Owlcapone establishing a new home or if it's another barred owl, Craig said.
Although he doesn't know how many barred owls are in the Salem area, Craig said it's clear the non-native species has expanded in numbers here in the past decade.
Barred owls are native to the eastern United States but have been moving west.
The owls in Salem might be more aggressive because they're the pioneers expanding their range, Craig said, although this can't be demonstrated scientifically. In another 100 years, they might be replaced with more docile homemakers, if that's what the species needs to flourish, he said.
"It's an exciting thing we have this kind of level of predator," Craig said.
If the environment is good for birds of prey, it's good for Salem's human residents as well.
"It's all part of the fresh air and good quality of life we have here," he said.
If you get attacked
If an owl scratches you and it breaks the skin, Willamette University Biology Professor David Craig recommends you monitor the wound like you would a cat scratch. There are rare diseases owls can transmit, he said.
To report an owl attack, email Craig at email@example.com or post a message at the Owl Attacks Facebook page.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (503) 399-6743 or follow on Twitter @KaellenHessel