Baby barred owl killed in Sequoia Park
Article Date: 2009-06-12 Source: http://www.times-standard.com
By Sean Garmire
Eureka, California, U.S.A. - The fledgling barred owl was huddled in a hollow tree in Eureka's Sequoia
Park, peering out at passersby who strolled along the nearby park road.
Onlookers notified wildlife officials about the young owl's location on
Wednesday, and would later report the bird appeared healthy but anxious as it
clacked its beak in the forest understory, warning anyone who approached to stay
But when wildlife officials arrived at the tree hours later, they found the
young owl's lifeless body, still warm in the blood spattered hollow.
Officials on Thursday attempted to determine not only who killed the bird, but
whether the young owl was a federally protected spotted owl or its more common
relative, the barred owl.
By Thursday evening, officials at the Redwood Sciences Laboratory had determined
the owl was, in fact, a barred owl, but Amanda Auston, director of the Humboldt
Wildlife Care Center, said regardless of the species, the bird's killing was
''horrible either way.''
Auston, a zookeeper at Eureka's Sequoia Park Zoo, was notified a grounded owl
had been found inside a hollow tree in the nearby forest around 11 a.m. on
Wednesday. She set off in search, but the prospect of finding the bird inside
the heavily trafficked 67-acre park was ''like finding a needle in a haystack,''
While Auston and other zoo staff canvassed the park, a Eureka mother and
daughter drove past the tree and noticed a small bird.
According to Auston, the mother and daughter checked on the owl, which appeared
healthy. The two remained at the location for a short time before continuing
their drive. After about 15 minutes, the two returned to check on the bird. When
they arrived, they said they saw two teenage boys, who had parked their truck at
the location, quickly return to their vehicles and drive away. When the mother
and daughter walked up to the tree, they saw the young owl was bleeding
profusely from an apparent blunt force wound to its head.
The owl was dead.
The mother and daughter informed zoo staff of the owl's location, and Auston
arrived shortly to retrieve the animal.
''It was still bleeding out, and it was warm and still limp,'' Auston said. ''If
we had gotten there just 15 minutes earlier, it probably would not have been
According to Auston, who has examined numerous injured animals in her role with
the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, it appeared the bird had been killed by blunt
force to the head.
There were no puncture wounds or patches of pulled feathers, which Auston said
would indicate the bird had been killed by predators or other birds. It appeared
otherwise healthy, and Auston said the bird would likely have survived out of
Andy DeVolder, acting field supervisor for the United States Fish and Wildlife
Service, said although they are not federally listed as endangered, barred owls
are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Wildlife researchers studying barred owl populations have reported data showing
the species is rapidly expanding its range into the western portion of the
United States, creating problems for the endangered spotted owl, DeVolder said.
The raptor species has been known to crowd northern spotted owls out of their
habitat and hybridize with the endangered species, which ''is becoming an
increasing problem'' within northern spotted owl territory.
However, DeVolder added ''by no means is it acceptable to kill them.''
The owl's body remains under examination by officials with the California
Department of Fish and Game, and Game Warden Josh Zulliger said an investigation
is underway to determine who killed the animal.
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