Neighbors rescue baby owl as mom watches

A rescuer puts an owl chick in a basket in a tree.

While living in the Avenues, a suburban area outside of downtown Hattiesburg, I had a sweet older woman as a neighbor. One morning, she was banging on my back door, so I jumped up, worried that there was an emergency.

Instead, I saw my neighbor, Miss Rita, in her pajamas, telling me about a baby barred owl that had fallen from its nest in the road behind our house. She knew that I was a photographer and wildlife lover, and that I would want to help and take photos, so we went out there.

I found Miss Rita’s brother-in-law with a pair of garden gloves on trying to navigate the brush outside our neighbor’s home while the mother owl looked on menacingly, unaware that these two-legged predators were actually trying to help her baby.

Miss Rita had called the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and they told her to hang a basket in the tree with leaves and cover it with a blanket, so we knocked on our other neighbor’s door — where a more sturdy tree had been — and he gave us permission to build the impromptu nest.

It was a tense time trying to get a grip on the owl chick. It was afraid of us, so it naturally fell off the fence rather than going to any of us.

Our neighbor gave us the green light to go into his backyard to grab the chick, noting that his large dogs were inside and the baby was safe.

Eventually, we calmed the baby down and got it into the woven basket it would now call home, and then started the waiting. Every day Miss Rita and I would check on the chick. We feared the mother wouldn’t take it back, but after a few days, the mother finally returned to her child.

It’s been over a year since the great owl rescue, as my old roommates and I called it, but I still think about that fluffy little guy. I wonder if he made it.

Barred owls can get to be anywhere from 10 to 20 years old under the right conditions, so we were just a blip on his radar, but he was a life-long memory for me.

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