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Update on the Russo Park owls

Posted at 9:04 PM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 22:12:48-04

The great horned owls that were nesting in Tigue Moore Field have moved on.

Earlier this month, we told you about a pair of owls who were raising some babies in a nest in a light fixture in the UL baseball field. At that time, UL had consulted with wildlife experts and was just waiting for nature to take it's course.

And it has, and both of the baby owls fell out of the nest. That's normal as baby birds grow and learn to hunt and fly. But, because their nest wasn't in a safe place, it was problematic.

Letitia Labbie of Acadiana Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation, Inc. in Youngsville is a licensed wildlife rehabilitation expert who is trained and authorized to rehabilitate birds of prey - including our baby owls. She has been working with UL to keep an eye on the family and ensure the safety of the owlets.

When first one, and then the other, fell out of the nest it was Labbie who evaluated the situation and decided it was too dangerous to leave the owlets there.

"It's baby season, and normally we recommend reuniting the family if you find a baby," Labbie explained. Usually that means you find a basket or milk crate that won't hold water, add some branches and leaves and put it back into the tree as high up as you can get it.

"But in this situation, mom and dad chose a really bad location," she said. "When I got the call about the first baby, and then the second one, well, there's no place there to reunite these guys. It breaks my heart to do it, but I decided I had to take both of them."

There are too many humans, and too many human structures, in the area for the owlets to be safe at the ballpark, she said. That's despite the fact that UL staff tried very hard to protect the owls as well as they could, she said.

So now those two babies who were born high above the ball park are now living with three foster siblings, and cared for by a foster dad, at Labbie's rehab.

"He has taken over as being the parent, and he's doing a good job," she said. "Eventually, they will be released back into the wild."

Labbie has recommended to UL that the nest be removed. These owls move into nests that other birds have built, and this particular nest was built by crows, she said. It wasn't strong enough to handle the family of owls, and it is falling apart, she said. UL couldn't remove the nest because these birds are protected, but Labbie as a rehabilitator can recommend that if she feels it is best - and she does.

"It needs to be removed for safety reasons, so that's what we're going to do," she said.

The babies - all five of the owlets she's rehabing right now - are headed back to nature.

"They're going to be fine, they're eating great," she said.

Labbie's operation is completely dependent on donations to fund the care of the animals she rehabilitates, and UL set up a donation location at Moore Park so baseball fans can contribute to their care until they're released back into the wild. It costs about $1,000 just for the food needed to raise an owlet to the age that's safe for them to be released. If you'd like to help with the care of the owlets, you can donate to Labbie's non-profit here.

Here are some photos Labbie sent us of the two babies: