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'Tis the season for chimney owl rescues

Yes, there is a season when owls get stuck in home chimneys. Here's why.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — It's chimney owl season? You read that right ... and it's happening right here in St. Louis. 

Birds looking to build their nest accidentally find their way into chimneys and then end up stuck.

Kira Klebe with the World Bird Sanctuary said early spring is important for the birds, "All the barn owls right now are getting together, and these are cavity nesters."

For an owl, there's a commonplace on just about every home that looks like the right spot. 

Garry Guinn with Humane Wildlife Solutions LLC said owls see our homes a bit differently than we do, "That's not your house, it's a funny looking tree in a funny looking forest and unfortunately, the chimney, especially without the cap, looks just like an oak hollow."

Owls check out those chimneys and end up unable to get back out.

"You're going to hear it probably first," Guinn told 5 On Your Side, "The indicative owl call, you know who cooks for you."

The fireplace seems like an unlikely spot for an animal rescue, but you'd be surprised, it happens more often than you'd think. Klebe said the hospital at the World Bird Sanctuary treats 30 to 40 "chimney" owls every year. 

Most commonly, it's barred owls that end up stuck in chimneys. Klebe told 5 On Your Side the birds typically need care for eye irritation due to soot exposure. 

Some have hurt limbs and are suffering from dehydration.

If an owl finds its way into your chimney, experts such as Garry from Humane Wildlife Solutions and the team at the World Bird Sanctuary can help you out. 

"We don't need traps or poison or snares," Guinn said. "Safely get them out and return them to their natural habitat and fix the hole, in this case, a chimney cap."

Barred owls 23-083 and 23-084 were the latest patients at World Bird Sanctuary, they've recovered and are back out in the wild. 

The chimney owls are arriving! It’s the time of year where we are receiving an increased number of calls regarding...

Posted by World Bird Sanctuary on Sunday, March 5, 2023

"They are very valuable to our ecosystem, they are great rodent control," Klebe told 5 On Your Side, "Their primary diet is going to be those small rodents and other lizards, so they are an important part of keeping those populations under control."

Barred owls are the most common owl to come into the world bird sanctuary hospital. 

Guinn recommended capping your chimney to prevent owls and other animals from getting trapped inside. 

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