Barn Owls In The Chimney

Federal protection restrictions made having a family of barn owls in the chimney of an Oklahoma home a particularly interesting situation for The Skunk Whisperer® team to solve. Skunk Whisperers Chris Greenlie and Ned Bruha worked with wildlife rehabilitator Annette King to come up with a solution that was beneficial for both the owls and the homeowners.

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The Story Behind The Barn Owls In The Chimney

The Skunk Whisperer® was recently called upon to help an Edmond family with an interesting situation - federally protected barn owls in their chimney. The Vanantwerpen family in Edmond, Oklahoma had been living with the uninvited and troublesome barn owls in their chimney for about seven months. During that time owls had given birth to several chicks also known as "owlets" or "owlings".

When interviewed on the situation, Mr. Vanantwerpen said, "We have noticed that even though we live next to a huge open field, we certainly have no mouse or rodent problems because of the free pest control the owls offer. Once the young were able to fly, they just sat on the gutters and watched as their mother taught them how to hunt.
baby owlets living in family chimney

Gradually, they all started hunting and coming back to the gutter, the roof top or chimney to eat their fresh dinners." Eventually the owls began to create a lot of trouble for the Vanantwerpens and the surrounding neighborhood, to the point where many of the neighbors were beginning to feel "terrorized" by the owls. Neighbors were afraid to let their smaller dogs out of the house for fear of losing them to the owls. And the owls were actually damaging many of the homes with their large talons and making a stinky mess as well, including leaving feces on houses and dropping bugs down the Vanantwerpen's fireplace. Although the neighborhood wanted to do something about their barn owl situation, they also wanted to do the right thing for the owls, a species which is federally protected. The Vanantwerpens had even expressed a desire to provide them with a new home nearby, an owl box for them to relocate to once they had been excluded from their chimney.

owl perched on chimney ready to leave
owl leaving chimney
owl in flight

Federal protection restrictions made the situation a challenging one, but The Skunk Whisperer®'s area wildlife management professional was up for the task. The Skunk Whisperer®, Inc. coordinated efforts with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation and wildlife rehabilitators in California and Oklahoma to be certain that the owl family's eviction was being done at a time when it would impact the owl family the least. The Skunk Whisperer®'s Oklahoma City office said "We were first called in April when they were just eggs. They were complaining, along with their neighbors, that the owls were 'not such a hoot' because they were defecating all over their homes, leaving owl pellets everywhere and scratching up their windowsills with their huge talons. We asked the client if we could do the right thing for the birds and wait, and they quickly agreed. I built a barn owl nesting box and mounted it 30 yards away on a nearby, outdoor fireplace chimney. They know that my nesting box is there, because there are signs that the owls have been on and in it several times. It is nice to see a family decide to be heroes for the animals like this family did here. Others may have lit a fire in order to 'take care of the problem'. We enjoy seeing people want to coexist with wildlife".

house built for owls to relocate
To ensure proper construction of the owl's new home, The Skunk Whisperer® obtained owl house plans from expert Alex Godbe of the Hungry Owl Project in San Anselmo, CA. The owl box was then constructed and erected on a nearby chimney for a few months prior to the owl family's eviction.

Godbe said "Since there are no trees around, the chicks might want to return to the nest site for a few weeks after that, so the longer they are left, the better it is for them". Although time did not allow following the owl box plans 100%, the owls did not seem to mind because they certainly have utilized it, even before they were evicted from the chimney.

Annette King of Wild Heart Ranch wildlife rehabilitation center in Claremore, commented on the situation, "This nuisance owl problem will be reconciled with the ultimate goal in mind, which is keeping the owls' well being top priority. The Owlings were raised in this inherited territory. They were taught to hunt here by their skilled parents. The optimum survival statistics will be achieved for this group by simply allowing them to remain in their existing territory, perhaps even 30 yards away in the nesting box that has now been provided for them". Once it was time to evict the owls from the chimney, the owl family was gently encouraged to leave by simply whispering the word "shoo". Next, the chimney was altered to keep them from re-entering. Some of the owls will likely move into the new owl home created for them, whereas others will likely move on to greener pastures. We enjoy having clients like this family call and want to do the right things, for the animals.

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Tulsa, Grand Lake & Eastern Oklahoma
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