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Holiday Lights Creating Problems For MN Owls

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ST. PAUL (WCCO) — There’s an incentive to take down those holiday lights this weekend, owls are getting stuck and injured. Great horned owls begin their nesting and the increased activity means an increased risk of injury.

You don’t have to look far to still find signs of the holiday season, homeowners all over the metro area have yet to take down their holiday lights. But Christmas cheer comes at a cost more than a month after the actual holiday, especially for great horned owls that are ready for the changing season.

“Christmas lights can be a real problem for wildlife,” said Gail Buhl, of The Raptor Center.

A string of lights can easily become the net that grounds an owl’s flight, injuring the bird.

“They can get tangled around their wings around their legs. They have no real way of getting themselves untangled,” said Buhl.

This year, the Raptor Center has treated five owls. Some were injured in lights. For the others, chimneys posed the challenge.

“So far, this year, all of them have been able to recover,” said Buhl.

Owls don’t make their own nests, but rather look for spaces or cavities to lay their eggs. Uncapped chimneys appear to be an ideal place until the animal gets stuck. Rescue usually involves cleaning a bird covered in soot.

“We want to remind people that this is something simple they can do to help wildlife. It’s not too hard to do and capping your chimney isn’t expensive,” said Buhl.

These small agile birds have no natural predators, but it’s the obstacles we leave that pose the biggest threat.

Soccer nets also tend to be a problem for owls as they are chasing their prey in the summer.

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