Police, Wildlife Expert Free Owl From Beacon Soccer Net

BEACON, N.Y. — Owls are generally thought of as wise old birds, but, it seems, they are no match for soccer nets.

The raptors, who hunt for mice and rabbits at night frequently fall prey to netting used in sports such as soccer, badminton and volleyball, say wildlife experts.

Smaller nocturnal hunters, such as screech owls, can get entangled in the faux spider webs folks hang on Halloween, according to Suzie Gilbert, a wild bird rehabilitator and author from Cold Spring.

Gilbert was called to the scene of the latest avian crime Saturday thanks, she said, to social media.

A Beacon yoga instructor, who Gilbert knew, had heard that an owl was trapped in a soccer net at Beacon High School and posted something about it on Facebook.

Gilbert, who happened to be visiting a friend in Beacon, saw the post and raced over to the school where she found three police officers.

The police had been alerted to the situation by an observant local teen who had spotted the trapped great horned owl and told her mother.

They had snipped away the net and freed the bird, but couldn’t unwind the orange net from its very sharp and intimidating talons.

A human hand can exert about 20 pounds of pressure per square inch, Gilbert said, but an owl’s grasp is closer to 300.

Their beaks are pretty dangerous too. “They can bite the daylights out of you,” she said.

Officer Michael O’Connor admitted he was very glad when Gilbert turned up.

“It (the owl) tried to get my hand a few times,” he said.

Gilbert fetched a pair of thick leather gloves she always carries in her car and, with the officers’ help, removed the netting.

Luckily, she said, it didn’t appear that the owl had been hanging there for days and was strong and healthy.

She placed it in the long grass under a tree on the edge of the field where it could hide and rest.

Rescued owls shouldn’t just be let go into the air during the day, she said.

Owls primarily hunt small mammals, but they are not above snatching a sleeping bird off a branch.

For that reason, other birds “hate them,” she said. They could be mobbed by other birds, or even killed by a flock of crows, if they fly during the day.

Gilbert said the owl took off after dusk when the “coast was clear.”

Gilbert plans to call the school district to ask it if there was a way it could take the soccer nets down at night from now on.

“It’s really good to have people like Suzie around to help us,” said O’Connor, adding that the owl rescue was “a good team effort.”


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