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:

(image from Amazon.com)

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.

18 thoughts on “Owl

  1. sooboo

    Now I’m tearing up too! I know you don’t want to divulge where you live, but I now want to live wherever that is! In my neighborhood, the police don’t come unless you tell 911 that shots were fired.

  2. Gretchen

    Did the guy mention the name of the rehab place? Or you might be able to find it by searching online, or the police might know. Sometimes if you contact them (and maybe offer to make a small donation toward the owl’s care) they might let you know when the time comes to release the owl. Maybe not, but it is worth trying to find out where it went. You’re right, these are nice people who understand being concerned about things like owls.

  3. Brittany

    This is beautiful! And it reminds me of how touched you are (rightfully so!) that playgrounds exist. When things can seem so ugly and bleak, these are beautiful things to remember.

  4. Matti

    I saw your tweets about this and I am SO HAPPY that you wrote a whole post because this kind of stuff is my jam. I love owls. I love animal rescues. The community coming together.
    I’m seriously impressed by the calm handling skills too! Having rounded up a few litters of feral kittens in my time, and having their little baby hisses make me jump every time, I can’t imagine not even FLINCHING at a full grown and likely grumpy owl.
    So, they think the owl lives close by? Do you know what kind it is?
    My parents had a mating pair of screech owls that made a nest in one of the trees in their yard. It was the highlight of our summer. Hearing the owls call to each other every night. Baby owls peeking out of the hole waiting for their parents to come feed them! The mom and dad, who were two vastly different colors, swooping around and clicking at anyone who got too close! Eventually, the babies learning to fly in our yard! This last part made going outside at dusk an adventure because the parents would dive bomb you if you got too close, but since the babies were on the move, and very well camouflaged, you never knew when you’d hear a loud click and have to hightail it out of there. One memorable night, my then boyfriend, now husband, and I ran the length of an entire field being pursued by the clicks and swoops of the daddy owl. He either loved to chase us, or had a much more firm idea of just how close was acceptable.

  5. Shelly

    Wow! That is an amazing story! I, too, would have been weepy.

    What did you do with the clothes hamper afterward? Did the animal rescue guy just leave it in your driveway?

  6. Grace

    Oh! All so lovely. So fun that your neighborhood is also the owl’s neighborhood!

    I bought some pants the other day and wore them today only to find that the front pockets are not pockets at all! I told my husband that the pants are “the worst because the front pockets, well here, try to put my phone in my pocket.” He was absolutely flabbergasted that such faux pockets existed. I’d never met a pair (to my knowledge) before your post and now here I’m the hapless owner of such a pair. It’s a crazy world!

  7. Jennifer

    You might like the website of the International Owl Center in Houston, Minnesota. Not sure where you are, but if you felt the need to visit the owls I am not far away in Rochester. I’m glad the owl was ok. :)

  8. Shawna

    I’m betting you can find the contact info for the owl rehabilitation center with a little judicious googling – why not get in touch to find out what the injury was and when the owl will be released? These sorts of facilities often require donations and volunteers, so public interest is important to them.

  9. Alexa

    This is apparently just what I needed to read this morning. I am feeling slightly bolstered about humanity. Also I adored the part about the cat taking shallow flight because I saw it happen in my mind’s eye and the cat basically transform mid-flight into an owl.

    Incidentally, I used to work with someone who volunteered at a wild bird rehabilitation center, and I feel fairly confident that if you called the place and talked to them/explained how you are connected to the owl in question they would be delighted to tell you about its recovery, homecoming, etc. In my experience (we also have a local raptor center that does field trips and such) the people who work at such places are very devoted and used to having their devotion not shared by the community at large, thus they are generally tickled when someone shows interest.

  10. Nicole

    Huh. It says there are comments, yet none are showing up, so forgive me if I’m repeating every single comment. I think you could call the rehabilitation center for an update and release info. Perhaps you could even have one of the children make the call, to avoid phone anxiety. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

  11. Heidi J

    We had something similar happen at our house a couple years ago. A bunch of crows kept dive bombing some of the bushes in our front yard, which was odd and upon closer inspection they were swooping at a great horned owl that was crouched there – alive, looking around, but not moving otherwise. We googled what to do and called a local animal rescue group, who came and picked up the owl. She used a blanket to wrap the owl in when she grabbed it, then put it in carrier. She said it probably had flown into a tree or something and had stunned itself. I still hear great horned owls out here at night.

  12. Jessemy

    Great story! It’s so funny what triggers the happy weeping. One time, it was the sight of children doing crossing guard with orange flags and vests. IDK. Motherhood does strange things to my brain!

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