Mascot owl in Colombia goes into shock and dies

The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 1, 2011; 4:42 PM

BOGOTA, Colombia -- The mascot owl that was kicked by a soccer player is dead, with the apologetic perpetrator ordered to pay the bird's medical bills and do volunteer work at a zoo.

The owl, a good-luck charm for the Colombian team Atletico Junior, was kicked by an opposing player during a game Sunday in Barranquilla.

The bird had been expected to recover from what were thought minor injuries, including a small fracture of its right leg. But Veterinarian Camilo Tapia said the owl went into shock after it was brought in for treatment.

The owl had the bad luck to be hit by a ball and landed near the corner of the field. Deportivo Pereira defender Luis Moreno walked over and kicked the bird about three yards to get it off the field. He did not know it was the home team's mascot. Fans at the game responded with cries of "murderer, murderer."

"I want to apologize to the fans," Moreno said after the game, a 2-1 victory by Atletico Junior. "I was not trying to hurt the owl. I did it to see if it would fly. What I wanted to do was get it off the field. The kick was a product of tension on the field at the time."

Humberto Mendoza, the director of agency overseeing environmental issues in Barranquilla, said he was investigating possible sanctions against Moreno.

"We are gathering information to determine the level of aggression," Mendoza said.

Mendoza said Moreno would have to pay the cost of treating the owl and visit a local zoo for volunteer work.

Officials for Deportivo Pereira and Colombia's soccer federation said Moreno also could face a suspension or fine.

© 2011 The Associated Press