The Raptor Trust in the Millington section of the township has cared for about 85,000 birds since its inception, as founder and director Leonard Soucy has developed the organization into one of the largest, most comprehensive and respected avian rehabilitation centers in the nation.
All of which apparently meant nothing to a person who apparently used a pair of wire cutters to swipe Simon an Eastern Screech Owl from its cage sometime Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Simon, delivered to the center six years ago after being struck by a car in Bangor, Pa., is partially blind and flightless, suffering from neurological and dietary issues, staff members explained.
“It’s got real problems,” said Ben Montgomery, a specialist at the center who has been working there for 10 years. “It’s not going to make it 48 hours (away from the center).” The trust is closing its doors for the moment while security is assessed and police investigate the matter. The bird that was taken was docile and a feature of the trust’s educational facility. A larger, more aggressive owl such as a Great Horned Owl could have severely injured any intruder.
The Eastern Screech Owl is the Garden State’s most common owl and the stocky, nocturnal birds with bright yellow eyes generally are about 6-10 inches long.
The board of trustees and seeking to quickly post a “substantial” reward, likely in the thousands of dollars, for the bird’s safe return. The stolen bird was one of four such owls on the property, approximately seven to eight years old — about middle aged for its species, which can live for 20 years in captivity — and flightless due to a past injury.
“A million kids have met this owl, and now it’s gone.”