By Denise Hnytka (WICHITA, Kan)
The Sedgwick County Zoo says it did the right thing when it euthanized four baby owls. The owls were brought there by a Wichita family who found the birds. Family members say they're upset about how the situation was handled.
Brian Oster says four baby screech owls fell out of his tree Sunday as he was cutting it down.
"Their eyes were not open yet, but they were chirping a little bit," he said.
Not knowing what else to do, Oster's son David took the babies to the Sedgwick County Zoo.
"He said they wanted him to sign a form, and they are going to euthanize them," said Brian.
Within the hour, that's what happened. The zoo says the four owls were only days old and were not good candidates for rehabilitation. The Osters say they thought the zoo would spend more time finding the animals a home first.
The zoo says it's permits do not allow them to hold the animals for any period of time. It says euthanizing them was the most humane solution.
Ken Lockwood from the Eagle Valley Raptor Center found out about the birds and wanted to rescue them. But by the time he got to the zoo, it was too late.
"In my opinion, they can give all the excuses and reasons, but bottom line, they chose to euthanize four innocent baby owls," said Lockwood.
The Osters agree; more should have been done to protect the owls.
"We as humans can fix anything," said Brian Oster. "We had an opportunity to raise them, and we did not do what we could to make that happen."
The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife released this statement Sedgwick County Zoo's permit.
The FWS permit to the Sedgwick County Zoo does authorize the zoo to euthanize sick, injured or orphaned migratory birds, in this case orphaned owls. There is no requirement to hold any bird, other than those not authorized on their permit (in cases of emergency), for 48 hours. Again, orphaned birds are authorized on their permit, and owls are not excluded.
The Sedgwick County Zoo also released this statement:
Our zoo wishes to remain a valuable asset in every way possible. While the outcome of this incident saddens us all, we urge you to investigate the facts when forming your opinions. Emotions will always be present where animals are concerned but our zoo will always maintain legal, ethical and professional practices on their behalf.
This was a very unfortunate end to this story. What can we do to prevent this from happening again? The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks recommends we do these animals a favor and leave them alone. It's common to encounter young wild animals, especially in spring and summer. Some people have an irresistible attraction to these wild youngsters. Every year, the lives of young wild animals are needlessly jeopardized by well-intentioned people who take them from the wild in the mistaken belief that the animals are abandoned or orphaned and will die if not given care. In fact, rescuing wildlife from the wild often results in the death of the animal.
If you find yourself in an unfortunate situation involving an injured, abandoned or displaced animal, you should contact the nearest office of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks regarding information on rehabilitators that have the correct permits for the animal in question (http://kdwp.state.ks.us). Rehabilitators ease the suffering of these animals by either caring for them until they can be released or humanely euthanizing them.