Owl Snowprint

See, there was a bunny hopping through the forest, then a bird came down and killed his ass.[UPDATE]Looks like there might not have been a bunny involved here afterall! For the bloody details, see Owl Snowprint Redux

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    Hmm. Such a big bunny didn’t put up more of a fight? Strange…


    An oddly poignant image.


    The bunny might have put up a fight, but it would be in mid-air while the owl carried it off. The owl doesn’t land, it just kinda… bounces off the snow carrying the rabbit.


    I still don’t quite get this image. There’s a large set of tracks coming from left. A small set of tracks coming from top, a squirrel perhaps. The confusing part is what looks like a tire track or something.


    the “tire track” is the featherprint of the owl as it landed on the rabbit’s back. wings and tail nicely outlined in snow.

    Hank Fox

    The “tire tracks” are the wing prints of the owl. Imagine a bird with its wings completely outstretched and upraised, making a quick poofy print in the snow as it snatches up a rabbit.


    Those are not bunny track, though… It’s obviously an owl (or another big bird) landing, and then walking through the snow.


    I agree, those aren’t rabbit tracks. Do a google search for “rabbit tracks” and you’ll see they’re always spread apart more. Plus, wouldn’t the owl print be behind the rabbit? I doubt even an owl would surprise a rabbit from the front in an open area.

    Hank Roberts

    Er, no; the little prints on the right are a mouse; the big prints are something bigger, in fairly deep snow. Rabbit’s a likely guess.

    The rabbit was coming in from the upper left and just barely turned slightly as the owl hit it, the owl’s wings came down onto the snow with its next flap as it lifted off carrying the rabbit.

    This isn’t at all a rare thing to _see_ after an overnight snow. Quite common, if you go out early and look. It’s a wonderful rare picture though.


    I think some skepticism is needed concerning the veracity of the claim of this being an owl/rabbit pairing. I would suggest that these tracks and owl imprint are faked, while the tracks (squirrel, probably) on the right are not.


    Care to give a reasone for this being a fake? Blindly delcaring something to be (or not to be) does not make it so…


    If it’s faked it is quite sophisticated fakery.

    I think Hank has it pretty well bagged. Small prints are definitely mouse, judging from the shape maybe deer mouse? Squirrel tracks are usually staggered.

    Using mouse tracks as a rough scale (otherwise absent from the photo) for the messy larger tracks, rabbit seems like a good guess. Owl prints often look too-sharp to be true, only because the wings might only hit the snow for a split-second. Compare to other pictures of owl snow-prints. Owls can and will happily take prey from the front, one of the many advantages they enjoy being silent nocturnal aerial predators.

    Tim McCormack

    Where is this photo from originally? It would be neat to track down the photographer and get the story behind the pixels. (Of course, speculation is fun, too.)


    The only thing that really bothers me here is the rabbit’s tracks seem fairly deep but the area where it was attacked isn’t as deep as it should be (the rabbit’s body would be sitting there and the force of the owl’s strike would’ve pushed it down into the snow, leaving a deeper indentation than shown in he image. And if the owl had instead swooped in and picked up the rabbit without slamming into it, I don’t see how the snow would get an impression of the wings, let alone the tail.

    Of course, stranger things have happened and I don’t live in a snowy area, so I’m hardly an expert.


    Creating a fake owl print from scratch strikes me as pretty pointless, though the photoshop hypothesis is far more viable to me than the “mitten” hypothesis (go try it, and take a photo, I think you’ll find it’s not as easy as you think). To artificially create dog prints like that would border on impossible.

    Here’s my take: *if* it’s fake, they took a photograph of the tracks of a running dog, and copied and pasted it with a bit of blurring onto a photograph of the owl print *or* onto the image of the snowy landscape and edited a photograph of the owl print in separately.

    The picture looks darned real, and my initial instinct was to accept it as legitimate, but I feel less certain now. The thing that didn’t sit right with me originally was the total lack of any apparent change in gait or pressure at the site of the alleged capture. I initially attributed this to the general obliviousness of domestic dogs, but it still doesn’t feel 100% right. It’s perhaps also worth noting that neither the owl prints nor the dog prints overlap with the tree shadows in the background, permitting more wiggle-room for stitching photos together. The other thing that bugs me is that while it’s an awfully large bird print, I’m still skeptical about it being large enough to take a dog that would leave the size of track depicted. I haven’t seen any real-life examples, though, so my instincts could be dead wrong there.

    On the other hand, the type of scene depicted *does* occur, and someone somewhere is *bound* to have a legitimate photograph of the snowprints a raptor taking a small dog. With that fact in mind, it seems pretty lame to try to fake such a photograph, and I’m more inclined to say that it’s legitimate.



    Dog tracks !?! I *suppose* some tiny terrier might make rabbit-like tracks in the snow, but I’m pretty sure we’re looking at fat rabbit tracks or something like that. Domestic dogs aren’t oblivious, and it’s quite difficult for me to imagine even a small dog being taken by any North American bird of prey at least (not to say that it couldn’t happen, but why turn this apparently quotidian event into something fantastic?)

    To refer back to Hank’s comment again, the wing marks are not from the initial strike (Owls strike feet first with wings aloft) but from brief contact with the snow as the owl flew off…the second partial set of feather prints just forward and offset from the main print may be the tips of the primaries barely hitting again on the second wing-beat.


    animal tracks via google

    Tim McCormack

    @neil: Owls and hawks do pick up cats and (small) dogs on occasion. Also, those don’t look like rabbit tracks.


    I thought this might be real until I had the privelage of witnessing a live owl attack during the holidays. The owl didn’t immediately pick up the hare, but struggled and killed it on the ground, creating a large area of messed up snow and blood and fur. Then it picked up the carcass and flew 30′ into the woods, landed, dragged the hare another 10 feet, and then ate the whole thing. I went back the next day to see what was left, and there was only some bloody snow and tufts of fur.

    It’s my best guess that this was an owl landing and then walking off to the left.

    this girl

    those don’t look like deer tracks? I don’t know what deer tracks in the snow look like, but where I live in the deep south they look exactly like that in the mud or dirt


    Any one here ever watch an owl walk though the snow?
    The owls tail scrapes on the snow leaving a path behind it. also they leave more than one mark from their wings when they land.

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