Officials: 'Simon' The Eastern Screech Owl Must Be Returned; Reward Mulled

MILLINGTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — An owl has been stolen from the Raptor Trust and faces certain death if not returned soon.

The Raptor Trust is healer and home to birds of prey. People are normally free to roam the tranquil place, but that wasn’t the case on Friday. For the first time in 43 years it was closed, because someone stole one of the owls, reports CBS 2’s Vanessa Murdock.

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“It’s kind of sad that we’ve come to this, after all these years of not only allowing people to come here, but inviting them to come,” said Raptor Trust founder and President Dr. Leonard Soucy.

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Well, it was an uninvited guest that showed up here twice. On Tuesday night someone tried to break into the cage of the Northern Sawwhet Owl, as evidenced by the fact that the latch was mangled. The first attempt was unsuccessful.

But on Wednesday night the thief didn’t make the same mistake.

“They broke into the cage, cut the wire and actually stole one of the birds,” Dr. Soucy said. “We felt violated. We still feel that way.”

That bird was “Simon,” a federally protected Eastern Screech Owl and a big part of this family.

“He’s a beautiful bird, bright eyes, wide eyes … just a very special bird to us,” Raptor Trust Education Director Lauren Butcher said.

Simon lived with 3 cage mates, but was the only one taken.

“He was the obvious first pick because he couldn’t see to get away,” Butcher said.

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Simon lost his night vision in an accident six years ago. That’s when he came to the Trust. It’s also one of the reasons he can’t leave.

“We’re concerned that the person who took him may be overwhelmed and release him into the wild, which would be a death sentence for this bird,” Butcher said.

“He’s a good guy and better come back in good health or I’m going to be really upset about this,” Dr. Soucy added.

When asked how long the owl potentially has to live, Dr. Soucy said, “It depends on the care … or abuse that it gets from whoever has it.”

At most, Simon will survive a week with out the care he needs, Trust officials said.

“All I want to say is please bring this bird back,” Butcher said.

The Trust is Simon’s home, the only place he can survive. So getting him back here soon is the main goal.

The Raptor Trust is hoping those responsible will bring Simon home safely and is contemplating a $10,000 reward. Officials said if Simon is returned safely, no charges will be pressed and no questions will be asked. If you know anything, please call 908-647-2353.

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