Home again: Barred owl returned to the wild at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center – Austin Daily Herald


Home again: Barred owl returned to the wild at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center

Published 4:16 pm Thursday, January 25, 2024

An injured barred owl is back home after volunteers from the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota released it back into the wild Thursday afternoon at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

It took a few minutes for the owl to leave the pet carrier, but when it did it was to the joy of those who gathered to watch the moment.

“This is a feel good story of our year,” said Kelly Bahl, Nature Center outreach naturalist and teacher. “It’s the reason the Nature Center does what we do.”

When it finally took flight, the owl perched on a branch not far from the group and surveyed its home before flying off short ways to another branch where it was finally left to acclimate to being back home.

The owl was found injured on Nov. 18, 2023, by someone out walking the trails at the Nature Center and was secured by volunteer Thaw Stuhr. Being able to get it wrapped up was an indication of how badly injured the raptor was.

“Someone was just walking the trail and saw it hopping along,” Bahl said. “It had been wrangled already so we knew it was a severe injury.”

It was determined that the owl, likely a juvenile,  had a broken wing and was transported to the Raptor Center that same day.

After not hearing anything for weeks, Bahl said she was contacted earlier in the day Thursday and told the owl was coming home to be released.

“Most birds brought to the Raptor Center don’t make it,” said Nature Center Director Luke Reese. “This one was found and released at the Nature Center and that makes it pretty neat.”

Volunteers Edie and Steve Brown were in charge of bringing the owl back to the Nature Center. Both said it’s not uncommon for the raptor to take a few minutes to find its way back into the trees.

However, both said that when the raptor does take off, it’s a great ending to the story.

“This is why we do it,” Edie said moments after the owl had been released. “It feeds the soul.”

Bahl agreed.

“You geek out about it when you get to be a part of it,” Bahl said.


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