Great horned owl released at covered bridge Sunday

Authored by Jim Langham on Mar 31, 2014

The parking lot at the Ceylon Covered Bridge filled quickly late Sunday afternoon as a large crowd gathered for the release of a great horned owl that had originally been injured when it was struck by a vehicle in Fort Wayne.
Pam Whitacre, of Soarin’ Hawk Raptor Rehab in Fort Wayne said the owl had been rescued from an intersection after it had been struck by a car and had been nursed back to health over a six month period. She noted that it could have been released two months ago but was kept in shelter due to the heavy snow cover.
“It would have been difficult for the owl to find its animals of prey with so much snow on the ground,” said Whitacre.
Whitacre said that determination to release the owl had been made because it was eating well and doing well with experimental releasing. She noted that the owls are placed on a 100-foot line and then brought back.
“She seemed to have good flying ability when we retrieved her,” observed Whitacre. “This is a very difficult moment for me. You become quite attached to these animals and sometimes it is hard to let them go.”
When Whitacre released the owl, it flew into a large tree along the Wabash River and perched there to the applause of the crowd.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Carlie Sealscott, a fourth grader at South Adams. “Coming to see this is something I will always remember.”
“It was pretty awesome, I thought it was cool,” noted Brady Fox, grandchild of Dave and Judy Fox and child of Lydia and Kevin Fox.
Berne’s Camarra Yates brought her children to the event, but there was also a very special history behind her history in the event. Years ago she worked at an emergency veterinary hospital in Fort Wayne. In fact, she had actually assisted with the surgery of a great horned own.
“I was touched by the absolute freedom it experienced when it flew away,” noted Yates.
Many of those who attended the owl release had been to a special lecture on Indiana owls given by Alexandra Forsythe at the Limberlost visitor’s center.
One such individual was Cindy Rieth, daughter of Catherine Pyle Strickler, a pioneer of Geneva schools and a history enthusiast who had grown up in the area.
“I think this is all so awesome,” said Rieth. “Geneva meant so much to my mother. We used to come down to the Limberlost. She would have been happy to see her grandkids enjoy an afternoon such as this.”
Rieth laughed when she told the story of how her mother once fell into the Wabash River by the covered bridge.
“She had gone to church. On her way home, she tried to swing across the river on a vine. Instead, it broke and she fell into the river. She had to swim out with all of her good clothes on. Needless to say, grandma wasn’t too happy about that,” said Rieth.
Also present on Sunday was Nick Rieth from Decatur, who had brought his children, Reagan and Jackson to the event. Rieth said that before attending the afternoon’s events, he and the children had read books about owls so they would be more acquainted about what they were going to hear about and experience.
“It was all enlightening. We learned a lot,” said Rieth. “We were excited to see the owl released.”
Robert Hill and his wife, Sondo, live in Muncie and are members of the Robert Cooper Audubon Society. It was an announcement in that organization’s newsletter that brought the Hills to the Limberlost.
“We really enjoyed Alexandra Forsythe. She did a really good job. We were really impressed with all that she knows about owls,” said Hill. “We had never seen the covered bridge before. This is a very nice area.”

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