Last night we had a little drama involving an injured owl.
Paul noticed there were two cars pulled over on the road outside our house, and two people in the road who were guiding traffic. At first we thought they were protecting a large cat sitting in the road, but then the cat took brief shallow flight and we realized it was an owl.
Paul went out with a flashlight to see if he could be of any assistance, but one of the people was already on the phone to the police, and the police were contacting Animal Control. The other person kept gently approaching the owl so that it would gradually retreat into our driveway, and this was a successful idea. The children and I watched all of this from the window, rapt. Paul came back in and joined us. “If you’re wondering if you’re visible from out there: yes.”
Two police cars arrived, and two officers got out and joined the gathering. They shone their flashlights on the owl, which gave the window audience a nice view of it. Paul went back out. He came back in, saying the officers had asked if we had anything that would serve as a Temporary Owl Containment Device; everyone was a little worried the owl would suddenly fly back out into the road. I first offered the cat carrier, but looking from cat carrier to owl it was clear we needed something larger and more vertically-oriented, and ideally something that could be sneakily placed over the owl instead of requiring any of us to engage more personally with the wings and talons and beak. Rob found a big plastic bin, but it would have to have air holes put into it and we were trying for speed. Paul thought of using one of our laundry hampers, turned upside down; they look like this:
This turned out to be just the thing: the owl had some vertical space and a little wiggle-room, and plenty of air, and could see out—but he could not fly into the road. We put an electric lantern on top, to make the whole thing more visible: we were a little worried that whoever was coming for the owl would try to pull into our driveway, or that someone else might pull into the driveway just to turn around or something.
One of the police officers left at this point, considering the scene secured. The two people who’d originally stopped to help also left. The remaining officer stood vigilant. At one point he crouched down to look at the owl, perhaps offering a comforting word.
You have to picture me weeping gently this ENTIRE TIME, with the children saying “MOM. MOM.” I was so touched by the whole thing. People stopping their cars to help, and then doing the best they could to direct traffic! The police, arriving on the scene! The existence of experts who could be called on a Sunday night to come out and take custody of an injured owl! All these citizens working together to help!
The guy from Animal Rescue arrived with a cat carrier that didn’t look much larger than ours, and then completely impressed me with his smooth and casual owl-handling. It was dark and I was at a distance, but it appeared to me that he lifted up the laundry hamper and extracted the owl in one smooth gentle movement, no flinch or fuss, despite the owl attempting to cling to the inside of the hamper. He held the owl up and examined it a bit with a flashlight, and felt its wings. Paul reported that the guy said there was no blood, and that the wings didn’t seem broken, so he didn’t think it was a serious injury.
This is the part that amazed me. Have you ever tried to get a cat into a cat carrier? It is no easy feat. But this guy got a WILD OWL into the cat carrier, and he did it in one easy swoop: one moment he was holding the carrier in one hand and the owl in the other, and the next moment the twain were one.
He said he would take the owl to an owl rehabilitation center nearby (fresh weeping at the idea of such establishments existing, and people working in them), and most likely bring the owl back to release it into the same neighborhood. He didn’t think it would be more than a few weeks.
We are HUGELY hoping that we will be aware in advance of this homecoming, and can see it happen, and can hear an update on what the injury was. But I am not counting on it. It seems more likely that the animal rescue guy would just show up sometime with no fuss, extracting the owl from the cat carrier in one easy swoop.