November 28, 2014

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Rehabilitated snowy owl set free

Amy LeMonds, below, director of wildlife at the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, releases the owl that was found trapped inside the Palace Theatre in Lorain last month. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Amy LeMonds, below, director of wildlife at the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center, releases the owl that was found trapped inside the Palace Theatre in Lorain last month. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

LORAIN — A snowy owl that once made his home in the basement of the Lorain Palace Theatre perched on a lamppost at Spitzer Marina Wednesday afternoon, watching gulls fly by.

A snowy owl that was found trapped inside the Palace Theatre in Lorain last month is released on Wednesday.

A snowy owl that was found trapped inside the Palace Theatre in Lorain last month is released on Wednesday.

On Monday afternoon, Amy LeMonds, director of wildlife at the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, released the bird from its cage near the lake. The owl gained strength at the center after it was discovered at the theater Jan. 16 by maintenance worker Mike Tillman.

LeMonds said when Tillman found the owl, it was emaciated, weighing just 1,096 grams — or 60 percent of a healthy weight.

The owl was slowly stabilized after a month of supportive care from the rehabilitation staff and now weights 1,714 grams. It was the first time in more than eight years that the center treated a snowy owl, whose presence in Lorain County is rare.

Snowy owls nest in the Arctic tundra and their migratory behavior is irruptive, meaning that some years there will be numerous sightings south of their nesting territory while other years there will be very few sightings. This year was a large irruption, likely due to a successful breeding season from an abundance of lemmings — the snowy owls’ favorite food, according to the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.

The snowy owl is shown in the rehab facility at the Lake Erie Nature Center. PROVIDED PHOTO

The snowy owl is shown in the rehab facility at the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center. PROVIDED PHOTO

Before the owl’s release, it was banded with information that will be reported to the Birding Banding Laboratory if it finds itself in a tough spot again.

“If he ever gets himself stuck in the basement again, we’ll know it’s this bird,” LeMonds said.

LeMonds said the marina was a perfect location to let the bird loose because snowy owls are commonly found in open fields and along lake edges, which are most similar to the arctic environment.

Since the owl was found at the theater, area residents have expressed interest in the animal, Tillman said.

“It’s just amazing, the outpouring of support from people who want to get a glimpse of it,” he said.

LeMonds cautioned, however, that the animal is wild, not a pet like the owl buddy of Harry Potter in the popular movie series.

“This is not Hedwig. Despite the cute fuzzy face, they can be aggressive when cornered,” she said.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.


  • DonMega

    Beautiful- its still some caring oeople in this world.

  • ekwaykway

    Such a beautiful bird, hope it survives. :-)

  • Phil Blank

    I was thinking about this yesterday.
    Glad it made it.

  • Phil Blank

    It came down here ahead of the Polar Vortex, bird know these things and move away from approaching storms.