Woman Spots an 'Injured' Owl on the Road — And Ends Up Its Hostage

A great horned owl perched on a branch. Don Mammoser/Shutterstock

There are all kinds of stories about the perils of inviting a stranger into your car. In fact, unless you happen to be a robot, hitchhiking is generally a dicey proposition for roadside stranger and driver alike.

But who couldn't stop for owl in the road?

After all, as an Arizona woman later told wildlife officials, the bird appeared to be in much distress, toppled over on a road near Tucson. Ryly Sawyer tells News 4 Tucson, she may have even hit it with her car.

To leave the owl must have seemed unconscionable.

Closeup of great horned owl in car
The owl seemed to suddenly get its strength back -- and latch onto the woman's steering wheel and sleeve. Arizona Game and Fish Department

Sawyer reportedly had no trouble collecting the owl from the road — and putting it inside her car.

"She retrieved it (the owl) from the roadway, and it was essentially motionless, and took it into her car," Mark Hart, a spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, told the Arizona Republic.

So far so go.... WAIT.

That owl may not have been as sick as Sawyer imagined.

"And then he grabs onto my steering wheel and I was like 'Oh my god, he's alive!'" she recalls to News 4 Tucson.

And lest you think wresting an owl's talons away from a steering wheel is easy, consider that it was a great horned owl, which ranks among the biggest owls in North America.

On average, they pack a 60-inch wingspan and powerful talons with a grip rivaling that of a dog's bite. And part of what this owl clung so steadfastly to happened to be the woman's sleeve.

Closeup of great horned owl's talons
The great horned owl is legendary for its powerful talons. Gary C. Tognoni/Shutterstock

Luckily, Sawyer managed to make a phone call to the state's game and fish department, according to The Associated Press. Staff there recommended pouring water on the bird, which should cause it to flee.

Except it didn't. In fact, the owl reportedly drank the water poured on it — and kept its vice-like grip on both woman and steering wheel.

We may never know what this opportunistic owl hoped to gain from the woman. All that for a drink of water? A cautionary lesson about picking up strangers?

In any case, the owl gradually loosened its grip and, seemingly finished with the woman, hopped out of the car.

Was it even injured in the first place? That's not even very clear — as Sawyer's mother reportedly spotted the bird afterward soaring the same area.

Looking, perhaps, for its next mark.