Dakota had lost more than 20 percent of his body weight and had to undergo a barrage of medical tests to evaluate his condition. Now back on solid foods, Dakota was ready to make his first public appearance, so greeting visitors is nothing new to the raptor who has served as an animal ambassador at the Wildlife In Need Center for many years. Dakota has educated more than 80,000 through his service.
However, Thursday's visit was a bit guarded as Dakota is still slowly recovering. Perched behind a glass display window, Dakota watched news media file through the center.
“He still has a journey ahead of him, not only physically, but mentally as well, before he’ll be prepared to return to work,” said Wildlife Education Coordinator and Dakota’s handler, Leslie Kiehl, "but for Dakota, it’s worth all the effort.”
Two Dousman teens will be in court Dec. 29 for a hearing. Both are charged with a felony count of burglary and misdemeanors for property damage. According to police reports, the two waited until WINC staff left for the day and climbed the center's fence. They pried open Dakota's cage and trapped the owl in a towel. They took Dakota to a home in Dousman where he escaped.
A Facebook post led Sheriff's detectives to the teens who admitted to taking the bird.