"A lucky owl, that's for sure," Vt. Fish and Wildlife Biologist David Sausville said.
Lucky to be alive after swooping down for prey along a dirt road in Addison early on the morning of Dec. 11 and being hit head-on by a truck.
"He was traveling at about 55 mph and most birds do not survive an impact like that," Sausville noted.
But to the driver's shock, the barred owl was alive and trapped face-first in the Ford's grill.
"He approached and wanted to release the animal. And then once it started to move around and he saw the talons, he thought better of it and continued on to work," Sausville said.
The driver then called Fish and Wildlife biologists, who grabbed their gear and helped free the bird.
"I just grabbed hold of the talons in one hand and he popped the hood and I was able to reach inside and grab a hold around the head with the other hand and keep the beak away from us and then he pulled back the grill and we were able to push it through," Sausville explained.
Sausville brought the owl back to the location where it was hit and he released it. He said after a few clicks of its beak, it flew off. But many are not so lucky.
Chapin is a barred owl that was hit by a car in 1995. His wing was broken so severely he would not have been able to survive in the wild. Chapin now serves as an ambassador for Craig Newman, the director of Outreach for Earth Stewardship, to teach people about owls. Newman rehabilitates injured birds and returns them to the wild when he can.
"Like most of our birds, they go to the vet, get a radiograph, determine how bad the break is, whether it's something we can do surgical intervention," Newman said.
He says the case of the owl in Addison surviving is extremely rare because most birds that are alive after a hit like that are so severely hurt, they have to be euthanized.
"There's not going to be any intervention that we can do that will get those wings to heal well enough to go back into the wild," Newman said.
Unfortunately, there isn't much drivers can do to avoid low-flying owls. Both Sausville and Newman recommend slowing down, especially in wooded or wetland areas where the owls like to live, and especially at this time of year, when more owls are on the move during the dawn and dusk commutes.
"And they don't typically look both ways before they fly across the road," Newman said.
If you encounter an injured bird, officials recommend you don't try to take care of it yourself and contact the nearest Fish and Wildlife representative. You can find out who that is on their website -- www.vtfishandwildlife.com
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