The snowy owl that arrived in Washington earlier this year, drawing gobs of well-deserved media attention, is finally getting out of rehab and returning to the wild this weekend.
You remember the snowy owl, don’t you? The owl was spotted in January in the middle of downtown Washington, drawing some curious crowds. But apparently the owl loved the attention so much it decided to do the only rational thing an owl in search of more attention could do: It perched itself on a ledge outside The Washington Post’s headquarters for several hours, leaving dedicated journalists no choice but to bravely ignore work and spend lots of time photographing and discussing the bird.
Several days later, the owl was apparently hit by a bus and an SUV. Somehow, the owl not only survived, but proceeded to lead D.C. police on a two-hour chase through downtown before officers were able to capture it. The owl was taken to a D.C. rehabilitation facility and made its way to a center in Minnesota.
The owl finished its rehab at the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center — receiving replacement wing feathers along the way — and will finally be released on Saturday, the center said Friday.
The owl will be released along the northern Minnesota/Wisconsin border, the center said, along with another snowy owl patient that had arrived (with less media coverage) from Wisconsin.
“Once the snowy owl is released, what it will do is speculation,” Raptor Center clinic manager Lori Arent said in a statement. “It may stay in the area for a few days, but its migratory urge will eventually encourage it to move north. The upper Midwest makes a lot of sense as a starting point for that journey.”
Snowy owl sightings had become more common this past winter along the Atlantic coast and beyond due to a spike in the lemming population. While snowy owls are an interesting sight in cities, they are actually a problem for airplanes, airport officials say. (And, of course, airplanes are a threat to the owls; at least five planes at New York-area airports hit owls over a two-week stretch last year.) Plus, you never know when a bus and an SUV will hit an owl that’s just flying around looking for food.
We leave you with an owl gallery, because you deserve it: