MARIN COUNTY --A Great Horned Owl tangled in fishing line, snagged by a hook and tied to a tree got help from a San Anselmo family and animal rescue groups, which set the bird free Thursday afternoon after weeks of rehab.
"It was very odd to see a terrestrial bird caught up in fishing line," said Melanie Piazza, director of animal care at WildCare in San Rafael, which treated the year-old male owl. "My guess is that he got caught in fishing line in another tree, then got more tangled as he flew."
The bird ended up in a tree near the home of the Naish family, who live on Oak Springs Drive in San Anselmo.
"What we first noticed were all these crows dive-bombing this bird in the tree,"
Sarah Naish said. "We would see the owl raise its wings, but it never moved. By Day 3, we knew something wasn't right."
Her daughter, 8-year-old Ella Naish, kept vigil on the owl and she and her family called the Marin Humane Society for help.
That agency tapped Jim Cairnes of the Small World Tree Service, who on a dark and stormy Nov. 17 went to San Anselmo to retrieve the owl. The rescue required Cairnes to climb up the tree 40 to 50 feet in the dark, wet and windy conditions. He found the bird tied to the tree by the fishing line.
Cairnes then called Piazza to come examine the dehydrated exhausted creature. Piazza's examination found the owl's injuries were limited. Apart from hunger, it had a hole in the fold of skin in front of one of the main segments of one of its wings, caused by a fishing hook.
After almost three weeks of rehabilitation, the owl was released at the end of Oak Springs Drive in San Anselmo on Thursday.
"We are very excited," Sarah Naish said before the release.
Great horned owls measure 18 to 25 inches long. They are the owls most often associated with their call, a familiar series of "hoots." The birds usually produce eggs sometime between January and March, according to WildCare.
While the owl is common, it provides a key role in the ecosystem.
"They provide free rodent control," said Piazza, adding she advises against using rat poison because it will harm owls as well. "They eat hundreds and hundreds of rodents. They have an important function."
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