HOUSTON, Minn. (WCCO) — When families decide to bring home an animal, they often go for cute and cuddly. But the creature living in one Minnesota home can be demanding and difficult.

Alice, the great horned owl, lives in a second-story bedroom of a rural home in the southeastern part of the state, and she believes the woman who lives there, Karla Bloem, is her mate.

“She was injured when she was three weeks old,” said Bloem, “and she permanently broke her left elbow joint.”

Alice imprinted on humans through her recovery, and has been with Bloem for 16 years.

Bloem runs the Houston Nature Center and has permits from the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to possess owls for educational purposes.

It’s not a job for those with weak stomachs. Bloem’s basement freezer is filled bags of rats, mice, gophers and rabbits, which she thaws and cuts up daily to feed Alice.

“Yeah, it’s a dark red meat,” Bloem said, holding a pocket gopher, “so this is Alice’s favorite.”

Alice will scratch up the home’s woodwork, require constant cleaning and sometimes hoot for hours in the middle of the night.

“Why do I do it?” Bloem asked. “Because owls are cool.”

Alice has become the town’s unofficial mascot through her visits to classrooms and other groups.

On March 7-9, the Houston Nature center will host the 12th annual International Festival of Owls. It’s an event that has drawn people from as far away as Norway, Germany, Jamaica, England, South Africa, Taiwan and Nepal.

“So literally, we get all the top owl people from the entire world coming to Houston, Minnesota, population 979,” Bloem said.

This year’s speakers are coming in from Finland and Israel.

Hein Bloem came to the festival from Holland in 2008.

“It clicked there and then,” he said.

He is now Karla’s husband — well aware that the owl was here first.

“I had to accept it or stay away,” he said. “I knew that Alice was higher on the hierarchy than I was ever going to be.”

Bloem also has two wild owls, named Rusty and Iris, in a backyard aviary.

They’re part of a breeding project and a research study of the sounds they make.

You can watch them online, around the clock.

Send us your Finding Minnesota ideas here.

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