Arrowhead Alpine Club folks free owl tangled in a soccer net | VailDaily.com

Arrowhead Alpine Club folks free owl tangled in a soccer net

EDWARDS — Arrowhead Alpine Club member Gary Elzweig and his daughter Dani were taking their chocolate Lab Aspen for its morning stroll when they found an owl tangled in a soccer net at the base of Arrowhead Mountain.

The owl, understandably, was hissing because it was under all kinds of stress, Gary said.

It was early, about 7 a.m., but not too early to rally some help.

Liisa Guida's Alpine Club office is right next to the field, and she dropped everything to take care of the owl.

It turns out, Liisa is something of an owl whisperer. She raised wild birds as a kid and always set them free, so she had a pretty good idea how this was going to go.

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Grabbing scissors, some heavy ski gloves from the Alpine Club's lost and found, and her son Zach, they set to work, as gently as possible.

Dani and Gary stood watch, helping calm the frightened owl.

"It was so vulnerable," Liisa said. "He was so distressed and wrapped up."

The owl had been tangled in that net all night, apparently trapped there while hunting. The more it thrashed around trying to free itself, the more tangled it became.

It had a few rope burns, but no cuts or bleeding, Liisa said.

The owl had been soaked all night in the water sprinkler system and really needed an intervention. When it was over, Liisa did a little research and discovered why.

"Unlike most birds, owls do not have waterproof feathers and will sometimes starve, and starve their babies, rather than attempting to fly or hunt in the rain," Liisa said.

It took 30 minutes to cut it out of the net, and another hour for it to dry. As it dried, they checked under its matted feathers and found — and removed — more strings criss-crossed in its feathers and around its neck.

"He tripled in size when he dried. It's like a down jacket when you pull it out of the wash. It gets bigger and bigger as it dries," Liisa said.

While it was drying for that hour, the owl was so exhausted it sat quietly — mostly — wrapped in a towel in Zach's arms, and finally in the bright morning sunshine.

An owl is a powerful raptor, a fact that was reinforced when it was finally able to clamp down with its talons on Zach's hand. Nothing that gets in those talons is getting out, Zach said.

When the owl was dry, they put him in a tree. Arrowhead security personnel checked on it over and over again, and finally, it flew away.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.