Baby owls fall to their death

Three baby barn owls were brought to the Wildlife Education and

Two baby barn owls were killed when their nest fell from a tree.
A third was injured and is currently recovering at the Wildlife
Education Rehabilitation Center in Morgan Hill.
Two baby barn owls were killed when their nest fell from a tree. A third was injured and is currently recovering at the Wildlife Education Rehabilitation Center in Morgan Hill.

When the city chopped the tree where the owlets lived near Alexander and Sixth streets Saturday, their nest fell, injuring the three. They were only a few weeks old. Two were pronounced dead after Gilroy police arrived at the scene, police reported in a press release. Police transported the remaining owlet to WERC. The center said the baby is in good condition and will fully recover.

The company responsible for cutting down the owlets’ home was contracted by the city of Gilroy to remove several trees in the area of Sixth Street. Five dead palm trees were slated to come down to accommodate phase I of the Camino Arroyo Bridge project, said Charlie Krueger, senior civil engineer for Gilroy. The city plans to conduct an administrative review of the incident to determine if any policies or procedures were violated, police said.

“We’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” Krueger said. “We feel bad about it and we’re doing everything we can to prevent it in the future.”

The city managed to cut down only four of the five dying trees before the incident with the nest. The city plans to wait until the investigation is complete before removing the fifth, Krueger said.

“It’s such a sad situation,” said Sue Howell, the executive director of WERC. “It could have been prevented. You don’t cut down trees during springtime when birds are nesting.”

Skeptical that only three babies were in the nest, she suspects that more than just the two died.

“Unless they had a permit to remove the nest, they should have cut around it and come back at a later time,” she said. “The big issue at hand is that with all this tree trimming, they have to make sure there is no nest of any animal that they’re cutting down. In many cases, they are just being shredded to death.”

Fortunately, the lone survivor is doing fine and eating all his mice, Howell said. He will be released into the wild after several months of recovery.

In addition to the city’s administrative review, a special agent from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct an independent investigation of the incident.

“This isn’t just Gilroy,” Howell said. “This is all over, this time of year.” She emphasized that tree cutters and public works officials must use extra caution during the spring when baby birds are nesting.

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