For four days last week, residents of Mount Vernon watched an owl with increasing concern: It flapped into cars, flew into signs and smacked into buildings, police said.
And for four days, Fairfax County animal control officers dutifully responded to citizens’ alarmed calls, attempting to capture the bird, which was clearly in some type of distress, police said.
“Even a sick owl isn’t easy to capture,” said Lucy Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County police. “We would go out there and he would be gone or they couldn’t get him.”
But on Friday around 11 a.m., a golden opportunity presented itself. The owl was spotted sitting on a perch a mere 20 feet above the intersection of Richmond Highway and Sacramento Drive, police said.
There was one small problem, according to police: The bird was clinging to a live power line.
Animal control officers couldn’t go near the wire, so they hit upon an unorthodox solution to capture the bird, police said. They resorted to towels.
With the help of Mount Vernon residents and firefighters, animal control officers threw the towels at the bird for an hour until one knocked it from its perch, police said.
The bird landed on a parking lot and it was netted as a growing number of onlookers snapped photographs, police said.
Finally, animal control officers got a glimpse of what was ailing the bird. One of the owl’s eyes was missing and the other was fogged by cataracts, police said. The animal was ill and malnourished and would not have been able to hunt effectively, authorities said.
The bird was delivered to the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia in Falls Church, where it is expected to survive, police said. However, it may have to live out its days in captivity because of its diminished ability to hunt, police said.