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Whooo Would have Thought?

On December 9th, 2015, ACES trail cameras captured footage of a Great Horned Owl with a trout in its talons. Current ACES staff have never witnessed this behavior before. Owls typically feed on small rodents, hunting them at night.



However, owls catching fish has deep roots in ACES history. Around 30 years ago ACES' founding Directors Jody and Tom Cardamone spotted a Great Horned Owl actively hunting trout. Both told others about what they had seen and were met with skepticism. When the new Hallam Lake visitor center was built, Tom and Jody wanted the hand-carved front door to include a depiction of what they had witnessed. Artist Eddie Running Wolf reluctantly obliged, carving his beautiful work of art (photos below) to include the scene in 1989.

Hallam Lake, a 25 acre nature preserve nestled in the heart of Aspen, Colorado, is spring fed, so parts of the lake will never completely freeze. The open water, even in the depths of winter, makes the lake a popular gathering place for a wide diversity of species. Hallam Lake is also home to a large population of brown and brook trout, which have been spawning recently. This footage was filmed at a pinch point for trout, an area with shallow water and beaver dams that slow the movement of the lake. Although it is not common for Great Horned Owls to hunt fish, this video stands as proof that the behavior does occur. Tom and Jody were thrilled to hear that the incredible sight they witnessed many years ago has now been recorded for all to view. 

Is the owl in this video related to the owl the Cardamone's saw? Is this a learned behavior? We have many questions!

~ Matt Thomas, ACES Educator