Trapped Owl Starves to Death Atop Pine Tree

Monday, Jan 10, 2011  |  Updated 10:45 AM PDT
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Trapped Owl Starves to Death Atop Pine Tree

A barn owl like this one got trapped in a pine tree and died of starvation.

A San Francisco barn owl starved to death after becoming tangled in debris and caught in a treetop, a WildRescue spokeswoman said.

Last Friday, local birder Dominik Mosur responded to a report of a dead owl hanging in a tree near Mission High School, next to Dolores Park.  The animal was found with black netting tangled around both its legs. It is not known how long it was trapped.

Rebecca Dmytryk, spokeswoman for WildRescue, said that she believes the owl became stuck after the netting got snagged on a branch, tethering the bird to the pine tree. Dmytryk said birds are often caught in discarded fishing line, kite string or netting that become attached to protruding tree branches

Mosur, a math teacher from the high school, recovered the body from the top of a neighboring 50-foot pine tree.

Both Mosur and Dmytryk said that the owl had lived in the area for quite a while, due to the copious amount of owl pellets discovered under the tree and littering the school's courtyard.

Owl pellets, Dmytryk said, are masses of regurgitated hair and bone from prey that the animal can't digest.

The death is not surprising, considering the recent owl population decline, Dmytryk said. San Francisco has become a less hospitable environment for nocturnal predators, she said.

Dmytryk is advising people to report wild animals in distress to WildRescue's hotline at (866) WILD-911, where they can find numbers to the nearest rescue organization.

Injured animals can also be reported to rescue@wildrescue.org or by paging the rescue team at (831) 429-2323.

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