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What a hoot! Baby owl befriends rescuing Va. cop

A Virginia police officer's discovery of a displaced baby owl has led to an unlikely relationship.

PURCELLVILLE, Va. — Police Cpl. Paul Kakol is used to responding to emergencies in his small town in western Loudoun County, but when his wife and son ran into their house, he assumed a new role as a first responder to rescue a baby owl that had fallen out of a tree.

On May 2, Kakol sprinted to the tree on Maple Avenue, a relatively-well-traveled road in the town of about 10,000, and saw a frightened barred owl.

“You could tell it was a baby, because the feathers weren’t fully mature, and there were some bald spots,” Kakol told WTOP. “It was about the size of a little Nerf football — pretty cute, but you could definitely tell it was a wild animal; he was scared.”

With the help of a neighbor who brought a large cardboard box, Kakol corralled the owl.

“He was clacking his beak together, and we know when they do that they’re trying to push people, or other animals, away,” Kakol said.

Kakol called animal control, who put him in touch with veterinarian Jennifer Riley, director of the nearby Blue Ridge Wildlife Center.

Since the owl wasn’t injured, Riley said, his best chances for survival would be to re-nest him in the tree it had fallen from. Generally, fledglings are fine on the ground, and should not be disturbed.

“I put the ladder up, but we just couldn’t get it high enough to where the nest was,” in a large knot, about 15 feet off the ground, overlooking Maple Street.

“We went to plan B, and attached a milk crate to the tree,” Kakol said. “Dr. Jen said if the mom and dad see the owl here they’ll still feed it, and everything will be good.”

By then, Kakol and Riley had named the owl Oscar.

Oscar’s parents returned, fed and cared for the baby. As he grew, he learned to climb down to the street, and climb back up when he had finished exploring.

Passersby were concerned seeing owls so close to the road, so Kakol erected a sign, describing why the owls were living in the makeshift nest. “They’re federally protected animals, so we can’t just move the nest.”

Kakol, his family and neighbors took delight in watching Oscar thrive.

“Then we saw another owl,” Kakol said. “Another baby owl, hanging high up in the tree.”

And when neighbors spotted a third baby owl, Kakol realized the family was intact — and potentially in danger, living along the busy street.

“They kind of took it upon themselves to move into my backyard,” Kakol said. “They knew it was safer back there.”

And when he led a disbelieving reporter to his backyard, high up in a large, lush, isolated tree sat three owls, occasionally letting out a screech

“We’ve got mom and dad, we’ve got Oscar, who’s the oldest, we’ve got Omar, and Olivia,” said Kakol. “Even though I’m sure we got the sexes wrong with their names.”

Kakol, a lifelong hunter who plans on selling real estate locally when he retires from the force in the next year, said he’s glad he’s getting to show his son an instance when nature and man work well together.


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