Wisconsin college teacher saves great horned owl from football net

By Jenna Wells

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PLYMOUTH, Wis. (WDJT) — A Plymouth science teacher is being called a hero after saving the life of an owl, as his middle school students and fellow teachers watched.

Abbie Ward, a seventh grade teacher at Riverview Middle School, is known to students and colleagues for helping animals in need.

When she learned that a great horned owl had been caught in the school football net on Friday, she sprang into action, grabbing scissors and her heavy-duty chemistry gloves.

“By the time we got there it was really, really caught up,” Ward said.

A local wildlife expert told CBS 58 that she often hears of owls getting stuck in sport nets.

“Owls are nocturnal hunters, so they don’t have the best eyesight to see these really thin nets,” said Lindsay Obermeier of the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.

As Ward patiently untangled the owl and cut the netting, the large bird remained remarkably still.

“He was laying there, and those huge yellow eyes were staring at me the whole time I was trying to get those last bits off,” Ward said. “It’s almost like he knows I’m about to let him go. .”

It was a risky rescue. The Great Horned Owl was born to hunt. Their sharp beaks and talons can be incredibly dangerous.

“If you take your hand and squeeze it, an owl that size can actually grab about six times as hard as you can,” Obermeier explained.

“I wouldn’t have touched him without those gloves that I knew he couldn’t bite or scratch,” Ward said.

After only a few minutes of struggling, the owl spread its wings.

“It just took off, and it was just the best. Everyone was cheering and clapping,” Ward said.

The students watched the owl land on a nearby tree and fly off safely into the woods.

“Congratulations to this teacher! Absolutely phenomenal, brave and exactly what people want to see done to help wildlife,” Obermeier said.

It was a successful ending and a good learning lesson on how to help protect owls if you have sports nets.

“The best thing to do to avoid this whole situation is to remove the net when you’re done using the court,” Obermeier said.

If you are inexperienced in wildlife rescue and encounter an animal in need, Obermeier advises you to keep your distance and call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to help you.

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