RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A young great horned owl fell from a tree in Bryan Park on Monday and Richmond Wildlife Center had to spring to action to get the federally protected bird back to its nest — but another problem they saw was people antagonizing the animal while it was on the ground.
The center teamed up with Commonwealth Tree Care to help get the bird back to its nest.
Parkgoers saw the owlet hit the ground and contacted Richmond Wildlife Center to help the bird. Melissa Stanley, the Founder and Executive Director of the center, said the owlet wasn’t ready to leave the nest yet.
“The concern was whether or not this owl was at a point where it was ready to leave the nest given that there were a number of owlets still in the nest,” Stanley said. “Often times, the parents will abandon in early fall in favor of those owls that are still in the nest.”
The big problem, to Stanley, was hearing about people intimidating the owlet after the fall.
“We had other phone calls and reports that individuals were approaching this owlet on the ground, waving sticks in its face, dogs approaching it, young children and essentially harassing the owlet while it was down,” Stanley said. “Every time you come to a public park, we are in nature and we need to be cognizant that we are sharing this space, this land, with other species other than ourselves.”
Lawson Patton of Commonwealth Tree Care was one of the individuals who helped get the bird to safety, with his company scaling the tree to place it back in its nest — but it wasn’t a typical day on the job.
“You have a bird of prey’s baby and you’re trying to get it home,” Patton said. “Mom and dad are not exactly excited about you entering their home.”
They were successfully able to get the bird back to the nest and taped off the area to protect the habitat for the next two weeks while the owlets fully develop their wings before they can take flight.
Bird watchers gathered with some even driving from over 70 miles away to see the owl nest.
“Great horned owls are federally protected birds so we do need to respect them in nature,” Stanley said. “But they provide a wonderful service to us in controlling our rodent population. Given they are located in a nearby city with nearby neighborhoods, that’s good for them.”