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Snowy Owl That Enchanted D.C. Is Hit By A Bus

The snowy owl that has been spotted recently in the Washington D.C. area was brought to the Smithsonian's National Zoo for care on Thursday.
Smithsonian National Zoo
The snowy owl that has been spotted recently in the Washington D.C. area was brought to the Smithsonian's National Zoo for care on Thursday.

A snowy owl that stopped pedestrian traffic — and the presses, when it found a spot outside The Washington Post's building — in Washington, D.C. could not escape the city's danger.

According to the Smithsonian National Zoo, the bird was apparently hit by a bus on Thursday. Police jumped into action and drove the owl to the zoo. They report:

"Upon arrival, the snowy owl was alert and responsive but subdued. There were no obvious physical injuries but there was blood on the bird. Upon further examination, blood was found in the mouth which is consistent with suspected head trauma. The owl was provided supportive care which included pain medication, Meloxicam, and non-steroid inflammatory drug akin to aspirin and provided fluids sub-cutaneously. Our team made sure the bird was comfortable and in a quiet atmosphere while waiting for it to be picked up by City Wildlife for rehabilitation. Per standard and established protocol, wild animals such as this snowy owl, are provided care and released back into the wild by a state or in this case a city-affiliated animal organization. City Wildlife Biologist Abby Hehmeyer says they will give the owl x-rays in order to determine any missed injuries, but their goal is to release her as soon as possible."

Snowy owls, which were made famous by their appearance in the Harry Potter films, are not common this far south. As we've reported, they normally live in the Arctic but some winters, when there is a population boom, the younger ones will venture south in search of food.

The owls are fond of voles, field mice, rate, rabbits and shore birds.The Washington Post talked to Ellen Paul, executive director of the Washington-based Ornithological Council, who told the paper what probably happened here is the owl was chasing a prey.

"Raptors will focus like a laser at whatever prey they're going after," and ignore everything else, she told the paper. "I knew that bird was going to get hit."

Still, it looks like this owl — a female based on its size and color — was much luckier than the white-throated needletail that ventured to the U.K. only to be killed by a wind turbine. It was also luckier than the poor — and rare — earless rabbit that was stepped on by a cameraman during his public debut.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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