Mar 1, 2013

Entrapped screech owl

By Deanna Barth

Copyright Ric McArthur
This afternoon WES was referred a call about an owl trapped in a chimney at a home in San Jose. According to the RP, the owl had actually fluttered to the bottom and they could see it through the glass fireplace door.

I was nearby, planning to attend the Wildlife Center's release of a great horned owl that WES helped rescue in December, so I took the call.

Upon arrival, I could see that the homeowner had done an excellent job in taking direction from us over the phone. She'd draped a large sheet across the fireplace, covered the windows and doors, and closed the family pets in another room.

I grabbed a little flashlight, slipped under the sheet and slowly poked my head inside the fireplace. There, perched on the flue, was a western screech owl, surprisingly, just inches away and looking right at me.

I put on my gloves, gathered my small net and tucked the sheet in behind me, in case the owl tried to get by me. I then
 nudged the fireplace screen just enough so I could slip my net to the right side and then above the owl to block it from flying up. With the net in my right hand, flashlight between my teeth, I used my left hand to quickly grab the owl.

I took a minute to look the owl over for injuries, which the owl didn't care for of course. It protested with clicks of its beak
He looked good, and was alert. It was nearing sundown, so I decided to release it right then.

The homeowner made an excellent observation and directed me to the yard of the empty house next door. It was very quiet and secluded with an array of trees and shrubs.  

With the owl cupped between my hands, I slowly opened my grip and the owl just sat there.  For a second I considered not releasing it, but then it took off and flew over the fence to a tree.
 We watched it for a while as it got its bearings. It flew again and tucked up inside a bush.

Before I left, I made sure to ask the homeowner to have the chimney cap fixed so this won't happen again.

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