A group of southwest Calgary neighbours sprung into action Monday morning to rescue a great-horned owl they found tangled in a soccer net.
Derek Jugnauth was walking his kids to the school bus in the community of Patterson Heights when they noticed a cluster of kids standing around the net.
What he did not expect to discover upon approaching it was a large bird of prey with striking eyes, tangled up and trapped with a tightly wrapped wing that Jugnauth estimates could stretch to about 2½ feet (76 cm).
"There was another lady there who I think was first on scene and tried to untangle him a bit," Jugnauth said.
"He wasn't very happy about it though, and scratched her, and she had a small cut on her hand."
Snapping and clawing
The woman called 311, and after the kids were whisked away on their bus, Jugnauth ran to get owl-rescuing supplies including scissors and chopsticks (although he's still not sure why he grabbed the chopsticks).
"[I] started to try and trim the net away, causing a rather big hole. I think I probably owe the City of Calgary the cost of a replacement," he said.
"But I don't know what I was really planning to do. I mean, as soon as I got him free enough to attack me, he was certainly going to attack me."
Luckily, Jugnauth was soon joined by Torie Findlay — a Patterson Heights resident who is passionate about saving birds.
Findlay spotted the situation when her own son was catching the bus, and returned with welding gloves and a towel, which she noticed tended to calm birds who might lash out.
She gently wrapped the owl up and held its feet, while Jugnauth trimmed the netting.
"[The owl] was snapping and it was trying to claw at us a little bit … and you know, it's just a weird thing, because they can turn their heads [right] around," she said.
"So I thought that I was safe from the beak, but then it would whip its head around at me."
A magnificent animal
When the pair managed to get the owl free, Findlay was very concerned — the net had been wrapped tightly around one of its wings, and they weren't able to get all of it off.
"I put it inside of a pet carrier, and I ended up making some phone calls," she said.
On the list was the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation in Coaldale, which directed her to Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (CWRS), where she dropped off the owl — who was rushed to the vet.
Findlay was happy to find out the owl sustained only small cuts on its foot and will be just fine.
"It made me really happy to save the bird, because who knows what would have happened to it," Findlay said.
As for the experience itself, Jugnauth said it amazed him.
"It was incredible, absolutely incredible, to be that close to such a magnificent animal," he said.
The owl was released into the wild, close to where it was found, in case that was near its family or hunting ground.
The rehabilitation society later told CBC News via email that people should always contact a local wildlife hospital before attempting to intervene with wildlife. The Wildlife Act "prohibits the public from intervening with wildlife for protection of the public and for the animal and also for biosecurity/ecosystem health."
The society said those in possession of or transporting wildlife could be charged, so intervention is not encouraged.