Details Emerge About Snowy Owl Holiday Death - Honolulu Civil Beat

It was Thanksgiving Day and a white Snowy Owl from the Arctic was fluttering around the runways at Honolulu International Airport.

How it made its way from its native habitat is unknown, but the day would not end well for the owl that local officials say could be the first to grace Hawaii’s shores.

By mid-day it lay dead, felled by a gunshot wound from an official working for the USDA’s Wildlife Services Division.

The incident was reported in the NYTimes over the weekend in a story about an unusually high number of the owls swooping across shorelines and fields of the continental U.S., delighting bird watchers.

The graceful, two-foot long bird, with white wings embroidered in black, was considered a threat to airplanes taking off from the airport.

The NYTimes quoted Denver Holt, director of the Owl Research Institute in Montana as saying the following: 

“One showed up at the airport in Hawaii, and they shot it,” he added in astonishment. “It’s the first ever in Hawaii and they shot it!”

So what happened? 

Dan Meisenzahl told Civil Beat that Honolulu Airport contracts the job of making sure Hawaii’s runaways are free of birds out to the USDA’s Wildlife Services Division. The officials drive around the airports all day chasing off birds that could get caught in the engines of planes and cause them to crash. 

Despite a USDA official’s best efforts to chase the owl away, it wasn’t moving, saidMeisenzahl. 

The official called his boss to try to identify it — it was confirmed to be a Snowy Owl. 

The official shot off five flares, which are like firecrackers, to scare the bird away to no avail. 

He, or she, also made several unsuccessful attempts to catch it in a gun net, a contraption that shoots out nets. 

Finally, after two hours, the decision was made to shoot it. 

Meisenzahl said it was done with a “heavy heart” and after exhausting all options. 

He said the USDA officials “really are the unsung heros. Nobody hears about those guys until something like this happens. It’s just a real shame. They do an outstanding job and unfortunately they were put in a position where there were no easy answers. I can’t tell you with what a heavy heart this happened.”

He said even in December the officials were still upset about it. 

“They were distraught over the whole situation,” he said. 


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