The Collegian
Saturday, June 15, 2024

Free the owl: Despite attacks, students thwart UR’s relocation efforts

<p>Owl resting on a tree branch. Photo courtesy of Jane Hill.</p>

Owl resting on a tree branch. Photo courtesy of Jane Hill.

After a month of now regular owl attacks on University of Richmond community members, one ended up in a catch-and-release trap the evening of Sept. 22, but it was gone by the time proper authorities could relocate it. 

Earlier this month, UR created a catch-and-release program in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, Sunni Brown, director of media and public relations, wrote in an email to The Collegian. 

The program is a non-lethal method of resolving issues between raptors, like owls, and humans, according to the USDA. 

“Unfortunately, someone illegally tampered with the trap and released the owl at some point last [Sept. 22] night before we could get to it and complete the relocation process.” Brown wrote.

A post shared to University of Richmond's Bartsool account Thursday evening showed an owl captured in the trap. 

“We have additional traps set for the owl that are clearly marked by the USDA and are hopeful that it will be safely caught in the near future,” Brown wrote. 

Students expressed mixed feelings about the owl capture in the comment section of the video.

One user stated, “Release this incredible animal.” 

While another said, “Now keep it there.” 

UR officials are doing everything they can to relocate the owl quickly and keep the campus community safe, Brown wrote. 

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Despite UR’s efforts, some students said they are still worried about being attacked while walking around campus. 

Sophomore Elena Zerkin said she saw an owl the night before an owl was seen in the trap around 10 p.m. 

“All of a sudden my friend screamed and grabbed my arm,” she said. “Then, she told me we had to run. I looked up and saw an owl swooping down and we ran with like five other people into [Everything Convenience].” 

Later that night, Zerkin, who works for UR emergency medical services, got a call about an owl attack where someone was scraped. 

Senior Thomas Vergara said he saw the owl around 10 p.m. on Sept. 22 while walking near Crenshaw Field. 

“The lamp post light shone down on me,” he said. “I saw the shadow of an owl, it swooped, and I ducked so it just grazed me. I saw it fly up to another lamp post and watch me walk away.”

The Collegian is now working to keep track of the attacks through a map to give students and community members a better idea about where attacks are frequently happening.

Students, faculty, staff and community members who have been attacked can fill out this form to help with the creation of the map. 

UR officials recommend paying attention to your surroundings, flailing your arms, making noise and covering your head if you do come in contact with an owl, Brown wrote.

Anyone who encounters an owl should report it to the UR Police Department at, Brown wrote. 

Contact news writer Amy Jablonski at

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