Rare Snowy Owl Hit by Bus in Nation’s Capital

A snowy owl that took up roost in the nation’s capital last week was hit by a Washington, D.C., bus Thursday morning.

The Smithsonian National Zoo took in the owl after it was found by D.C. police, the zoo announced in a release. It was treated and is expected to survive.

snowy owl
A female snowy owl rests on a ledge of a building in Washington, Friday, Jan. 24, 2014. The snowy owl, which breeds in the Arctic tundra, attracted passersby snapping pictures and watching its rare presence in the usually warmer urban area. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Upon its arrival to the zoo, the owl was reported to be alert but subdued. It didn’t have any outward physical injuries, but the zoo’s statement noted blood on the bird. The blood was suspected to have come from the bird’s mouth, indicating it experienced a head injury.

snowy owl
Image source: Jen Zoon, Smithsonian National Zoo via Flickr
snowy owl
Image source: Jen Zoon, Smithsonian National Zoo via Flickr

The owl was treated with fluids, pain medication and a drug similar to aspirin. It was later transferred to the District animal rescue City Wildlife, where it will be rehabilitated.

Take a look at the bird being examined by a zoo veterinarian in this video:

City Wildlife biologist Abby Hehmeyer said in a statement that the owl would have X-rays to ensure there are no internal injuries requiring treatment.

An expert told The Washington Post she feared such an accident would happen to the owl when she heard it was in the city:

When told of the incident, Ellen Paul, executive director of the Washington-based Ornithological Council, said, “Oh, my God, don’t tell me this!”

Envisioning a likely scenario for the owl’s injury, she said that “raptors will focus like a laser at whatever prey they’re going after” and ignore everything else.

They have superb forward vision but poor peripheral vision, she said. “I knew that bird was going to get hit.

“It’s got to be very accurate,” she added. “It’s going to swoop down and pick up an animal that may be moving. It has to be able to see and focus and lock on to the animal. And it’s not going to notice . . . what’s coming at it from the side.”

She also said the bird did not appear to be healthy, and she worried that if it was feeding on rats, it could be ingesting rodent poisons.

Snowy owls are more common in the northern United States and into Canada. It’s rare to see one as far south as Washington, D.C.