From some Beaufort oak trees, wildlife experts say it was a Barred Owl that swooped down onto 14-year-old Haley Wright. It went straight for her head with its talons.
“I had my back turned, and her older sister screamed, ‘Mom, an owl just landed on Haley’s head!’ while she was ducking for cover,” Haley’s mother, Joanna Kelnhofer, says.
Wright has the scars to prove it. There are five puncture wounds and two scratches on her head.
“At this point, she was going gray at the sight of blood,” Kelnhofer remembers the traumatic event, “and just the amount of blood, and not knowing what diseases birds can carry, we decided to take her to Beaufort Memorial [Hospital].”
The family had been moving some furniture from the house, in a spot where the owls live in trees across the street.
“I was a little alarmed. I mean, we’re used to seeing those owls in my parents’ trees,” Kelnhofer says.
The only explanation she can think of, could be that Haley was carrying a mirror when it happened. They say there was a smaller owl there, too.
“Just like we would protect our young, they’re going to do the same thing. So, it could have been that. It could have seen a reflection in the mirror and thought ‘Oh there’s another owl in the area, going after my baby’, things like that,” licensed wildlife educator Nancy Owen says.
Although experts say it’s very rare for an owl to attack, the family will keep their distance for now.
“So, I guess people just need to be aware of the certain times of year, and definitely stay away from where you know they are and whatever trees they’re in… especially if there’s a baby, because I guess they are known to attack,” Kelnhofer says.
As for Haley, she is doing fine, recovering.