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Snowy Owl released after being caught at Oshkosh airport

Snowy Owl stare, December 29, 2017 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

OUTAGAMIE COUNTY (WLUK) -- A bird of prey is back in the wild Friday night after being relocated earlier in the afternoon.

A Snowy Owl was released near Shiocton.

The big white bird was trapped last week at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

One glare from the piercing yellow eyes, was all Don Baumgartner needed to know the Snowy Owl was ready to go.

"When it's looking at you, you know it. Yes, snowy attitude is right. It's definitely feisty, and does not like people. So that's a good thing," said Don Baumgartner, The Feather Wildlife Rehab Center.

The big white was recovering at The Feather Wildlife Rehab Center near New London. The owl was caught last week at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh. A maintenance worker shot and killed a different owl last month, after that bird got too close to an active runway.

Now, experts are catching problem birds.

"They will trap them, if they're not a threat. If it's a theat to a plane, that's another thing. But if they are just there, then there are better things than shooting them," said Pat Fisher, The Feather Wildlife Rehab Center.

The goal is to make sure owls are healthy, then set free.

So where do you release a Snowy Owl? Will it fly right back to the airport? The big birds only spend winter months in Wisconsin, so picking the best spot could be a crucial part of the bird's success.

"There's been Snowy Owls there in previous years, so we know that there's food there. And they do like it there," said Baumgartner.

Doug Cooper released the bird.

"I can't say how he felt, but I felt pretty excited. It was just a really neat experience," said Doug Cooper, Appleton.

Cooper is the pilot who saw the first Snowy Owl on the runway in Oshkosh in November.

"I got the call for the invite, and I thought this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I couldn't pass it up," he said.

"A positive thing happened here. A group of people got together and created a new protocol on how to help these birds get off the airport, and in a safe place," said Janet Wissink, Winnebago Audubon Society President.

Acording to the Department of Natural Resources, as of this week, there have been 202 Snowy Owl sightings in Wisconsin.

That's more than in the past two years.

A second owl is recovering at the Feather.

There is no timeline if, or when, that bird will be ready for release.

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