CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — “I was doing a security walk on the morning of April 13th, just a normal day,” Chris Browne said.
Browne’s a security specialist at Carlisle Barracks, and part of his job is walking the fence line. He was near Letort Creek when his normal day took an abnormal turn.
“I just saw something odd in the water,” he said. “And I walked over, and it clacked its beak at me, and I said ‘whoa, that’s an owl!”
An immature great horned owl, to be precise. Nobody knows how it ended up in the creek, but it obviously needed help.
“We had an animal control person on the installation, Eric Engle, so I went over to his office. We drove his truck over along the creek, we put a plastic barrel over the owl, and scooped him up from the creek and put a sheet over it so it wouldn’t startle it too much. It was obviously cold in the creek, and it was probably not going to live in there too much longer,” Browne said.
Engle took the baby great horned owl to Raven Ridge Wildlife Center. While she has no major injuries, she’s way too young to release back in the wild. So, she spent the summer growing up with other juvenile great horned owls. By the end of August, the owl made it clear it’s time for her to be released.
“She’s been ready to go for the last couple of days,” Tracie Young, rehabilitator for Raven Ridge said. “We’ve been having a hard time getting her out of the cage to clean the cage, getting her in the flight pen, getting her out of the flight pen.”
So on September 2, Young brought the owl back to Carlisle Barracks. The event brings out the garrison commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jeannette Molina.
“It is a rare circumstance when you have something as beautiful as an owl leave its natural habitat and then come back and then be released,” Col. Molina said.
They picked a spot along the creek close to where she was found. Tracie opened the door, and they wait.
And they waited. And waited. and waited. The owl would just peer out from the crate.
“I really anticipated that she was going to come out and take off. And she didn’t want to,” Young said.
Time for drastic measures. Young started to disassemble the crate, and finally, fourteen minutes after the door opened, the owl decided it’s time to go. She hopped out of the crate, shook free from a couple of newspaper sheets, took off and headed off to the trees.
“She was probably getting her bearings straight,” Young said. “Because after a while she started looking off to the left, and I think she recognized that was her area. And that’s when she took off. “
“The owl is pretty big,” Molina said. “The wingspan is just as long as my arms were, so when it came out there, and I saw the wingspan, I thought wow, it’s such a beautiful creature, I’m glad it’s back at home. “
“Quite a sight to see how big that owl really is,” Browne said. “It’s been five months, so quite a sight, beautiful sight.”