Second snowy owl released near Shiocton

Snowy owl before its release near Shiocton, January 21, 2018 (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

OUTAGAMIE COUNTY (WLUK) -- A special bird is back in the wild.

A snowy owl was set free Sunday afternoon near Shiocton.

The bird was one of two trapped at the Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh one month ago.

At the Feather Wildlife Rehab/Education Center near New London, volunteers prepared a snowy owl for its upcoming flight.

"We don't want the bird to injure its feathers or injure itself. The bird is wild, and you just have to kind of settle it down, and once you have the bird in a comfortable position, it's easy to handle the bird," said Bob Welch, The Feather Wildlife Rehab/Education Center.

The bird has been recovering at the center. The snowy is one of two owls trapped last month at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh. A maintenance worker shot and killed a similar owl in November after it got too close to an active runway.

Veterinarian Jim Ziegler examined this latest bird. He says it had an infection and was underweight. But after a month of treatment, he says the bird is healthy enough to go back into the wild.

"Actually it was a lot stronger than I remember. For a bird that size, it's incredibly strong. You can feel the talons trying to grab you, and the wing trying to beat away from you. It's pretty impressive," said Dr. Jim Ziegler, Wolf River Veterinary Clinic.

On Sunday afternoon, in front of about 30 people, Dr. Jim sent the snowy on its way.

"Oh, this is what it's all about. This is what you hope for, and there's nothing better than a release to get it back into the wild," he said.

"Very exciting release. Perhaps the longest flight we've seen in all the releases we've had. This was just moseying around and looking at the habitat and then dropped in. And a very strong flyer, so exciting," said Welch.

The owl soon settled in, and will be on its own. In the winter months, the big white birds migrate to Wisconsin from their home near the Arctic Circle.

"This is very good owl habitat. And we know that there's other ones in the area, that it's a good spot. Plus, it looks just like the tundra," said Virginia Halverson, The Feather Wildlife Rehab/Education Center.

The first owl was released in the same area late last month.

The birds are expected to stay in Wisconsin another couple months, or as long as they can find enough food.

Have you seen any snowy owls this winter? Share a photo or video with us:

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