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 Errant Owlets Rescued by Local Police

May 23, 2007 - Two "jailbirds" briefly detained by the Knightstown Police Department last week are now being held at a "correctional" facility in Yorktown.

No, Yorktown has not built a new prison. And the two detainees transferred from Knightstown are anything but hardened, habitual criminals.

Thanks to the rescue efforts of KPD officer David Loyd and reserve officer Shawn Mullins, two young barred owls that took a tumble from a Knightstown tree last week are now new residents at Wildlife Resqu Haus, Inc., a nonprofit wildlife refuge and sanctuary in Yorktown. The reunited feathered siblings are expected to spend the next several weeks at the facility, which specializes in caring for owls and other raptors, before being released back into the wild.

While area residents Tom Hoepf and Patty Hutson had been hearing owls near their homes on North Washington Street for more than a month, the tree where they were nesting about 20 feet off the ground was not identified until early last week. By the evening of Tuesday, May 15, however, the tree near the northeast corner of Washington and East Warrick streets was home to one less owlet.

Loyd told The Banner that he and Mullins were patrolling North Washington Street that night when they saw an owlet on the sidewalk. Following instructions they got from animal rescue personnel, Loyd said he and Mullins captured the bird by throwing a towel over it, and then took it back to the station.

Due to the time of the evening, the first owlet was kept overnight at the KPD, where it fed on some raw cubed steak. Wednesday morning, someone came and picked up the bird and took it to Wildlife Resqu. On Saturday afternoon, Loyd and Mullins had an opportunity for an encore performance of Tuesday's owl-nabbing exhibition when they received news that the second owlet was now on the ground. Using the same technique that worked with the first bird, the second one was captured and taken to the station, where it was kept until someone arrived about 45 minutes later to take it to Wildlife Resqu.

The director and operator of Wildlife Resqu, 69-year-old Diana Shaffer, told The Banner on Monday that the two barred owls are doing fine. "They're very healthy and alert," she said. "Initially, the first one that came in didn't want anything to do with the second one, but then, it was like 'Oh, wow. I think I know you.' So, they're very happy together now."

Licensed by both state and federal governments to care for all types of wildlife, Shaffer said she works with 600-800 birds a year. Counting the two recent arrivals from Knightstown, she said Wildlife Resqu is currently home to 18 owls.

Kept together in a nine-foot by six-foot inside cage that holds just them, Shaffer said the Knighstown owlets will probably be moved outside next week into a larger, 22-foot by 12-foot cage. She said the larger cage will give the young birds, which she guessed to be three to four weeks old, plenty of room to practice their flying.

"It will probably be the middle of July before I'll feel comfortable releasing them," said Shaffer, who has been rescuing and rehabilitating wildlife for 50 years. She said the best release environment for the owlets would be a wooded area that would provide them enough space to establish their own territories. Anyone with suggestions for a release location can contact Shaffer at (765) 759-9112.

Photo caption for owl story: Knightstown Police Officer David Loyd lets an owl sit on his arm. (Photo by Tony Hamilton)


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