WATCH: Middle school teacher cuts owl free from soccer net

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 12:29 PM CDT
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PLYMOUTH, Wis. (WDJT) – A teacher at a Wisconsin middle school is known in her community for helping animals in need.

When Abbie Ward heard an owl was caught in the River View Middle School’s soccer net on Friday, she sprang into action.

The adult great horned owl was in distress, and Ward, a science teacher, grabbed a pair of scissors and heavy-duty chemistry gloves.

“By the time we got out there, it was really, really caught up,” she said.

Wildlife expert Lindsay Obermeier, from the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, said she wasn’t surprised; she often hears of owls getting stuck in sports netting.

“Owls are nighttime hunters, so they don’t have the best eyesight to see those really thin nets,” she said.

Ward patiently untangled the owl, cutting through the net, as the big bird stayed notably still.

“He laid there, and those huge yellow eyes just stared at me the entire time I was trying to get those last few pieces off,” she said. “It’s almost like he knew I was getting ready to let him go.”

It was a risky rescue. Great-horned owls are born to hunt. Their sharp beaks and talons can be incredibly dangerous.

“If you take your hand and you squeeze (your hand), an owl of this size can actually grab about six times stronger than you can,” Obermeier said.

Ward said she wouldn’t have touched the owl without wearing gloves that she knew it wouldn’t be able to bite or claw through.

After a few minutes of struggling, Ward said the owl took off.

“It was just the greatest,” she said. “Everybody was clapping and cheering.”

Nearby students watched the owl land on a tree before flying off into the woods.

“Bravo to this teacher. Absolutely phenomenal, brave and exactly what people want to see done to help out with wildlife,” Obermeier said.

It was a successful ending and a good lesson on how to keep owls safe.

“The best thing to do to avoid the whole situation is to take the net down when you’re done using the field,” Obermeier said.

If you are inexperienced with wildlife rescue and come across an animal in need, you should keep your distance and call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator to help, Obermeier said.