An owl dives down, apparently in an effort to attack a skunk. A state raptor biologist says great horned owls are one of only a few species that actually eat skunks. Credit: Courtesy of Bob Hall

This story was originally published in December 2020.

According to legend (and a few TV commercials) owls are supposed to be among the smartest of birds. “Wise old owl,” you often hear.

Perhaps the fact that their wide-open eyes make them look like they’re wearing spectacles has prompted us humans to decide that they must be brilliant. Hard to tell. All I can tell you is this: The owl in this trail camera photo, sent to us by Bangor Daily News reader Bob Hall, is not the sharpest beak in the flock.

A friend of mine told me, years ago, “If you’re gonna be stupid, you’ve gotta be tough.” This owl, which appears to be ready to grab, as my late father would have said, “the north end of a southbound skunk,” is nominated as Exhibit A.

“Not sure who is going to get surprised in this photo, taken last spring,” Hall said.

It doesn’t take a doctorate in wildlife biology to know that’s not a particularly astute move by the soon-to-be stinky owl. Just to be sure, though, I reached out to Erynn Call, the raptor specialist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, to see if this photo is really showing what it appears to be showing. (For the record, she actually has a Ph.D. So unlike the owl, she’s really smart).

“Yes, indeed that is a photo of an owl and a skunk,” Call said. “It’s tough from the photo to make a 100 percent identification on the owl species but we do know that great horned owls are one of the few predators, winged or otherwise, that regularly eat skunks!”

I can just picture the owl’s kids, sitting down at the table, for a beautifully prepared roast of skunk.

“Try this,” one small owl says, waving a chunk of meat under its brother’s nose. “This smells funny.”

Or maybe that’s just what my siblings and I might have done.

Either way, it’s a fantastic photo. Thanks for sharing.

If you’re an avid trail camera user who’d like to help those looking to capture images like these, we’re working on a story that will do just that. What do you look for in a camera? How much do you expect to pay? What features are essential? What kinds of mistakes did you make when you first put your cameras out, and how do you avoid those mistakes now? How about a recommendation for a good low-budget option? Or what would you buy if money was not a concern?

Thanks in advance for your input.

Do you have a trail camera photo or video to share? Send it to and tell us “I consent to the BDN using my photo.” In order to prevent neighbors from stopping by to try to tag particularly large bucks, moose or bears, some identities and towns of origin may be omitted.

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...