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Monday, December 31, 2012

With help of wildlife clinic veterinarians, woman rescues then frees injured owl in South Nashua

NASHUA – Most people don’t watch their Christmas present soar off into the sunset, and fewer are happy about the sight.

But at dusk Friday, Yvonne Kleist got a belated present when a screech owl she rescued – with the help of Tufts University veterinarians – beat a hasty escape into boughs of a tall pine near Sky Meadow Country Club. ...

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NASHUA – Most people don’t watch their Christmas present soar off into the sunset, and fewer are happy about the sight.

But at dusk Friday, Yvonne Kleist got a belated present when a screech owl she rescued – with the help of Tufts University veterinarians – beat a hasty escape into boughs of a tall pine near Sky Meadow Country Club.

“I’m just tickled pink. This is the best Christmas present I can get,” she said.

The release ended a nearly three-month journey for both Kleist and the small female owl.

On Nov. 2, Kleist drove past a small, dark object at the side of Spit Brook Road. “Was that an owl?” she thought, doing a double-take.

She turned around and found the bird, which apparently had been hit by a car. She scooped up the owl, which was in shock.

“She sat on my lap like an angel and didn’t move a muscle,” Kleist said.

Back at her home in the Sky Meadow development, Kleist called state Fish and Game officials. It’s illegal to keep an owl or other wildlife, Kleist knew, and she asked officials what she should do. A wildlife staff member was scheduled to pick up the owl the next morning but was called instead to New Jersey to help with wildlife issues related to Hurricane Sandy.

Other Fish and Game officials also were tied up in the aftermath of the storm and unable to come get the owl. Kleist then called the Audubon Society, who advised her to contact the Wildlife Clinic at Tufts University.

Kleist did that, but not before sharing her adventure on Facebook and with family.

Kleist’s daughter, Noaillese Hunt, of San Jose, Calif., got a strange phone call from her mother.

“We have to Skype,” Hunt said Kleist told her excitedly. “I have an owl.”

Kleist’s husband, Michael, gave the raptor the name Hoot, though Screech might have been more appropriate.

The next day, Kleist drove the injured raptor to Tufts in a birdcage. It was touch-and-go for a few days, until the owl began to eat on her own. Nursed back to health, the owl at last was ready to be set free shortly after Christmas.

On Friday, Kleist drove to the clinic on Tufts’ North Grafton, Mass., campus to retrieve the bird, which she brought back to Nashua in a pet carrier. Veterinarians at Tufts advised Kleist to release the owl near where she found it. The bird should be let go at dusk and preferably near undergrowth. The veterinarians figured the owl would scoot away into the undergrowth until it got it bearings, then fly off.

That didn’t exactly go as planned, however.

Kleist and family members crunched through a hard layer of snow to the edge of the Sky Meadow Country Club. On hand were Kleist, her husband, Michael, and visiting from San Jose her daughter and son-in-law, Noaillese and Warren Hunt, and their children, Tobin, 2 1⁄ 2, and Calvin, 4 months.

Kleist opened the carrier door, removed the blanket covering it and gently pulled out a second blanket inside. The owl wouldn’t budge, even when she tilted it vertically. Finally the owl emerged – but instead of dashing for the undergrowth, quickly and soundlessly soared into tall trees about 20 or 30 yards away in a wooded buffer between the development and the golf course.

Kleist was delighted with the outcome.

She felt like she had just given birth, Kleist said.

“I always wanted three children,” she said, joking and adding, “This was the best Christmas gift ever.”

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Meighan on Twitter (@Telegraph_PatM.)