My daily commute from Fort Collins to Windsor involves taking Timberline Road to Carpenter (aka Highway 392), and then taking Carpenter straight into town.  It's a pretty quick, pleasant drive without much traffic.  At least it was until a week or so ago, when I had to swerve to avoid people standing in the road, gazing into a tree through their telephoto camera lens instead of paying attention to where they were walking!

So why were people behaving so stupidly?  Well the next day, I drove by slowly enough to see a beautiful Great Horned Owl perched next to a nest, tending to its young, high in the branches of the tree on the corner of Timberline and Carpenter.

My first thought: Wow, what a beautiful creature!

My second thought:  People need to leave it alone!

(Michael Tincher, rehabilitation coordinator at Rocky Mountain Raptor Program) said the constant disruption of the owls’ natural cycle — great horned owls are nocturnal raptors that should be inactive during the day — is making the animals agitated, affecting the natural growth and learning cycles of the immature owlets in the nest. He said it could result in death if humans don’t give the raptors room to breathe. The owls have been “far more active” than they should during the day due to continued disruptions, he added.

Tincher also said the owls are letting out alarm calls, meaning they are extremely agitated by the constant barrage of bird-watching tourists.  According to the Coloradoan, Tincher has even seen people hitting the tree with branches to get the owls' attention.


Also, it's suspected the baby owlets are leaving the nest too early as a result of being so confused and agitated. One owlet has already fallen from the nest and had to be helped back into the tree by the RMRP.

And, if that's not enough to deter you from bothering these animals, turns out it's also against the law.

Great horned owls are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act. Onlookers could be ticketed for harassment if they don’t give the owls a wide berth, said Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill.

How would you feel if people bothered you at all hours while you were trying to raise your family?  Yeah, that's what I thought.

So please, PLEASE leave these birds alone.