Waterford family gives a hoot

A female barred owl that was found in distress in Waterford at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014.
A female barred owl that was found in distress in Waterford at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo

Mystic - On Dec. 28, John Baez's sons, 9 and 14, were walking along some trails behind their Waterford home when they came upon two barred owls tangled in kite string and hanging 6 feet off the ground from a small tree.

They ran inside and told their father had to come outside right away. When Baez got closer, he saw the two owls hanging "wing to wing like a Christmas ornament."

He had one of the boys get him some scissors so he could cut the string and lower them to the ground. After removing the rest of the string, he put on some gloves to protect himself from the owls' talons and placed them in a plastic tote. After calls to the Waterford animal control officer and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, he was able to reach the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, which agreed to take the birds.

Maggie Jones, the nature center's executive director, theorized Tuesday that the male owl first became entangled in the string while looking for food in a vernal pool.

When the owl's mate arrived, she, too, became ensnared in the string.

While the male was more seriously injured and unable to stand, both owls suffered abrasions while struggling for hours to escape from the string. In addition, they were weak and dehydrated from their attempts to break free.

After Baez brought the owls to the nature center, the male was taken to a veterinarian. The male was released by the veterinarian on Saturday, and both have now been reunited in an enclosure at the nature center, where they are continuing their rehabilitation. Jones said that once the male is fully recovered, possibly in a week or so, the pair will be released in Baez's yard.

While the center often rescues and rehabilitates birds that become ensnared in string, rope and monofilament line, Jones said this is the first time it has treated a pair from the same incident.

According to the nature center, barred owls are commonly found in southeastern Connecticut, although they are more often heard than seen.

Jones said they form "pair bonds," and this is the time of year when they begin nesting and mating.

Baez welcomed the news about the owls' recovery and said he and his family plan a release party when the owls are returned to his yard.

j.wojtas@theday.com

Maggie Jones of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic checks on an adult barred owl Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014.
Maggie Jones of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic checks on an adult barred owl Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo
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