As if on cue, the distinctive call of a barred owl pierced the predawn darkness this Halloween morning. Owls, after all, are the quintessential Halloween birds: spooky, nocturnal predators. More often heard than seen, the night-hunting owls are recognized by their deep hoots, hissing rants, tremulous calls and chilling screams. When we hear them, images from black and white horror movies flash through our minds.
Of course, owls are of no threat to humans and play an important role in the control of mice, cottontails and other small mammals. But our species, ill-equipped to function in the dark, has long feared the mysterious creatures that rule the night. We sometimes find the remnants of their kill, body parts or a bloodied scene, the next morning and can only imagine the terror of the hapless victim.
So, after the witches and pirates leave your porch this evening, go out to listen for our Halloween hunters. Their dark, cold season is just beginning.