Baby owls rescued from a water tower in Celina are flying free.
Four barn owlets were discovered on Dec. 10 on property in Celina owned by Susan and Dwain Gray.
“They were inside an old water tank,” Dwain Gray said.
A friend, they say, crawled up the ladder and recorded video of the owlets inside.
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“I couldn't sleep at all that night. I was just worried they were cold. It was cold out and I didn't know if the parents would come back and feed them,” Susan Gray said.
The couple called Celina firefighters who rescued the owls from the tower.
The birds were placed in a box and left nearby in hopes that their parents would return.
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That didn’t happen.
“I didn't know who to call actually,” Susan Gray said.
“The main way we're found is people get stuck in a situation and they have no idea what to do,” said Hailey Lebaron, raptor rehabilitation manager at Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in Lucas.
It’s where four of the barn owls were taken the day after they were discovered.
Lebaron says if the owlets had been left inside the tower, they would never gain flight muscles to get out.
“Which means they would end up starving to death because once they're old enough the parents stop caring for them,” Lebaron explained.
At the center, a foster parent named “Dusty,” a ‘retired’ barn owl unfit to be released into the wild, took the four owlets under her wing, training them to climb, eat and survive in the wild.
“We do put them through what we call ‘mouse school’ and that's where we do live prey tests to make sure that they do have the necessary skills to really succeed in the wild,” Lebaron said.
It’s a test she says they passed with flying colors, opening the door to a final leg of their journey to freedom.
With full hearts and full hands, Celina firefighters, Lebaron, and the Grays, the couple who found the birds, made the trek through a field Friday to a tree line on the Gray’s property, where the birds were released into the wild.
“It was just a full-circle moment for me too,” Susan Gray said. “Very meaningful.”
“I call that a success,” Lebaron said.