PLYMOUTH, Wis. (CBS 58) — A Plymouth science teacher is being called a hero after saving an owl’s life, as her middle school students and fellow teachers watched.
Abbie Ward, a seventh grade teacher at Riverview Middle School, is known by students and colleagues for helping animals in need.
When she heard a great-horned owl was caught in the school’s soccer net on Friday, she sprang into action, grabbing scissors and her heavy-duty chemistry gloves.
“By the time we got out there, it was really, really caught up,” Ward said.
A local wildlife expert told CBS 58 she often hears of owls getting stuck in sports netting.
“Owls are nighttime hunters, so they don’t have the best eyesight to see those really thin nets,” said Lindsay Obermeier with Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.
As Ward patiently untangled the owl and cut through the net, the big bird stayed notably still.
“He laid there, and those huge yellow eyes just stared at me the entire time I was trying to get those last few pieces off, Ward said. “It’s almost like he knew I was getting ready to let him go.”
It was a risky rescue. Great-horned owls are born to hunt. Their sharp beaks and heels can be incredibly dangerous.
“If you take your hand and you squeeze it, an owl of this size can actually grab about six times stronger than you can,” Obermeier explained.
“I would not have touched it without those gloves that I knew it was not going to be able to bite or claw through,” Ward said.
After just a few minutes of struggle, the owl spread its wings.
“He just took off, and it was just the greatest. Everybody was clapping and cheering,” Ward said.
Students watched the owl land on a nearby tree and fly off safely into the woods.
“Bravo to this teacher! Absolutely phenomenal, brave, and exactly what people want to see done to help out with wildlife,” Obermeier said.
It was a successful ending, and a good learning lesson about how to help keep owls safe if you have sports nets.
“The best thing to do to avoid the whole situation is to take the net down when you’re done using the field,” Obermeier said.
If you’re inexperienced with wildlife rescue and come across an animal in need, Obermeier says to keep your distance and call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to help.