An owl believed to be about two-months old is safely back in its tree after a run-in with some humans on Montecito Drive Wednesday night.
Jeff Chapman, director the of Audubon Center at Debs Park, said that he is now closely monitoring the status of the owl and expects it to develop normally.
The owl was "branching," Chapman explained, a process by which young birds learn to fly by leaping across tree branches.
Though he admitted that he's not entirely sure what happened, Chapman said he believes the bird fell out of the tree while branching, and was being harassed by some humans who had crossed its path.
Chapman said the bird's tree is located near the sports fields on Montecito Drive, across from the entrance to Debs Park. He credited a neighbor for alerting the Audubon Center about the fallen owl.
"We don't really know what happened, there were some people that were either placing the owl back in the tree or were going to take the owl," Chapman said. "We got a call from a neighbor in Montecito Heights and she was concerned because she saw this owl in a cage--we got down there and it was kind of a confusing situation."
In the future, Chapman asked that humans be vigilant but respectful if they come upon a fallen bird.
"Unless a bird is inured or begin harassed, its not lawful to take that bird or remove it from the site," he said. "Any bird that's injured can be taken to a licensed animal care provider, but a federal law protects these birds from being harassed or removed from their environment."
He added that, contrary to popular belief, mother birds will not reject their young if they come in contact with a human. So, in most cases, it's okay to return a bird to a tree if it appears to be struggling or in danger from predators like dogs.
"You can place it in a box or bush nearby and the family will continue to feed it," he said. "I had a small hummingbird fall out of its nest in Eagle Rock and we put it in a open box in our backyard. We kept an eye on it, and eventually the mom came back."