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With doc’s OK, Elkins barn owl returned to nature

Inter-Mountain photo by Lynn Setler Verle Harper releases a barn owl behind the former National Guard Armory in Elkins Thursday as Wildlife Biologist Jim Fregonara looks on.
Inter-Mountain photo by Lynn Setler
Verle Harper releases a barn owl behind the former National Guard Armory in Elkins Thursday as Wildlife Biologist Jim Fregonara looks on.

ELKINS, W.Va. – When his dog kept barking at the window, Sunset Drive resident Verle Harper knew something was amiss. He didn’t see anything unusual when he looked out the window but the dog was insistent so he went outside. Harper was surprised to find a barn owl sitting in his yard.

Fearing it might be injured because it was acting dazed and confused, Harper contacted the state Division of Natural Resources.

Jim Fregonara, a wildlife biologist in the Wildlife Resources Section in Elkins, took the owl to a Cheat Lake veterinarian who works closely with the DNR. No visible injuries could be found but the bird was kept for observation for a few days.

When it began to act normal, Fregonara returned it to Elkins and arranged for Harper and his wife to assist in releasing the owl in the general neighborhood where it was first located.

Fregonara chose the area beside the former National Guard Armory because it was close to where the bird was found and because it offered a wide area not obstructed by overhead utility wires.

When it was first released, the owl flew just a few feet before settling on the driveway where it proceeded to calmly look around, apparently getting its bearings. After a few minutes, the owl took flight again, heading toward Flood Control Road. It quickly changed plans when a flock of six crows began chasing and swooping at it.

The owl retreated to the ground again as the crows continued to fly around while voicing their displeasure over the owl being in their territory. A Cooper’s Hawk was then spotted perched in a nearby tree observing the activities.

A short time later, the owl again took to the air and moved to a tall pine tree in a yard on the opposite side of Robert E. Lee Extension. The crows and the hawk followed along. From the sound of their vocalizations, it seemed they were even more displeased about the owl’s choice of shelter where they could not easily bully and harass it.

Fregonara said he would return to the area later to check on the owl’s progress.

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