Feb 19, 2014

Got crickets?

Late this afternoon, we received a call from a woman in Kentfield, in Marin County. She had an owl stuck in her chimney - a Western screech owl. It had been stuck there for about 5 days. 

She'd called around and could only find one agency to respond - the Marin Humane Society. 

An officer responded and located the tiny owl - it was above the damper, but when he tried to capture it, it hopped higher, onto the fire box and out of reach.

This was a tricky situation. But, we came up with a plan.

When we need to get close to an animal to capture it, there are two options - go after it, or draw it near. 

In most cases, we'll consider options for luring an animal toward us, rather than chasing after it - for many reasons. Mainly, once you pursue an animal, it will become fearful of you. If you're not successful in your first attempt, you may not get a second.

So, how might we coax a screech owl out of hiding? 

We know it is hungry. Very hungry! We know screech owls eat insects (among other things), and it would be attracted to insect-like movement.

Got crickets?

It was late in the day - nearly 5PM. We instructed the RP (reporting party) to quickly find a pet store that sold live crickets and purchase a handful of them. Place them in a see-through container and set it in the fireplace.

Off she went.

She was back in no time, with a bag of excitedly chirping crickets. As she made her way into the den, the owl popped down into the fireplace

It literally popped through the damper opening as I was approaching with the bag of crickets...I hadn't even opened the bag, but they were chirping loudly!

With the owl reachable, the Marin Humane Society responded and successfully captured it. It was transferred to WildCare for evaluation and care.


A reminder to all homeowners: Accidents like these can be easily prevented by making sure chimney spark arresters are installed properly and in good condition. A simple step to help keep your home and wildlife safe!

If you'd like to be notified of Wildlife Search and Rescue classes offered in your area, please email us.

Find out how to safely respond to wildlife emergencies in Wildlife Search and Rescue: a Guide for First Responders, written by our director, Rebecca Dmytryk.