ELMWOOD, Neb. — A sickly snowy owl found in downtown Omaha last fall is healthy again and just a car ride away from freedom.
Members of Raptor Recovery Nebraska were called to capture the owl last November near the CenturyLink Center. Far from its normal habitat hundreds of miles north of Omaha, the bird was dehydrated and emaciated.
Janet Stander had very little hope that the owl would survive when it arrived at the Raptor Recovery Nebraska headquarters here.
“It was really on the edge. It could have gone either way,” said Stander, assistant rehabilitation coordinator.
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• Click here for a photo slideshow of the snowy owl's release.
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She spoke after loading the owl into her car for a drive to the Raptor Center in St. Paul, Minn., where the snowy owl will be released.
The bird had weighed less than half that of a healthy snowy owl when it was found. Now a healthy 4 pounds, the adult male is ready for release.
“This is an exciting day,” Stander said. “He is one step closer to freedom.”
Four snowy owls were brought to Raptor Recovery Nebraska in the past year, but the owl rescued from downtown Omaha will be the only one to get its freedom. Two died from their injuries and a third will be moved to an educational facility, according to Betsy Finch, executive director of the center.
“You never cry during releases,” Stander said. “A release is a joyous occasion.”
An average of 50 raptors, including owls, hawks, eagles, falcons and kites, are housed at Raptor Recovery Nebraska on a daily basis.
Many of the raptors have been injured in collisions with vehicles or electrical wires. Some have been poisoned or even shot.
Three part-time employees and dozens of volunteers run the facility. The nonprofit organization is the only one in Nebraska licensed to rehabilitate raptors.