I was recently in Berkeley CA having dinner with some friends. One of them told a very interesting story. This is totally true.

Seems earlier that week they were in bed and heard a crash in the living room. My friend crept down the stairs and turned on the lights expecting to see a startled midnight entrepreneur run out the front door. But he saw nothing. A moment later there was another crash and he knew he had an animal problem. He carefully worked his way down the steps and peeked into the living room to find a full sized, very disoriented and, although one cannot know for sure, angry owl. It must have been perched on the top of the chimney and, perhaps taking a cat nap, fallen down the chimney into the living room. Or perhaps it was a little too aggressively chasing a bat snack and got stuck in a non-flight gravity situation. This was the only way into the house and the plethora of black soot confirmed the route. I don’t know if you have ever seen an owl close up, but they are very nasty looking and built for separating flesh from its owner. Their wingspan easily hits three feet. In fish lingo, this animal would not have the “communal” sticker on the aquarium. These are not good pets if you also own cats or small dogs.

Now, my friends live about 500 feet from a fire house and there have been calls over the years in their neighborhood when a fire-person would simply walk down to help with some small problem. So on this 2:00am, they called the fire house and made the strategic mistake of saying there was a “bird of prey” in their living room. The goal was to alert the fireman that there was danger and they needed someone whose character was defined by dangerous and heroic acts: like a fireman. After a long pause, some background laughter and then some firm whispering, the fireman on the phone said there was no way they are coming near the house and suggested calling the police. Hard to believe taking on an owl rates higher on the danger scale than running into a burning building. Or maybe they have not yet seen the training film on owl removal. Or worse yet, maybe these firemen actually dealt with an owl before. Do they know something about owls we don’t know? Maybe that whisper in the background was “not after what happened to Rob!” Perhaps owls are notorious exterminators of public service personnel.

Next, they dialed the non-emergency number to the police and got the same response: no way are they coming near the house. At this point, my friend was getting a little nervous and thinking this owl really was more dangerous than he had previously surmised. So far, men who own thick fire suits with axes and men who have guns have both declined hero-age. By now the owl had taken down the pictures, spread lamps and table items all over the floor and appeared to be less pleased with the situation than at first. My friend considered other options such as opening a window and holding the neighbor’s cat outside within view of the owl. But he figured cats are even more aware of how dangerous owls are, at least as much as police and firemen, and taking on a cat at 2:00am in lieu of an owl may not be an equitable exchange, especially when the cat figures out the plot twist at the end of the story.

The next call was to the animal control department. They said they were not equipped to handle owls and to try the fire house. My friend sat on the stairs for a few moments to consider the dilemma while the owl continued to rip apart the living room. Then, in a true moment of California genius, he called the police again and said, “there is an endangered species trapped in my living room and will die if we don’t get it out”. There were sirens in the distance before he hung up the phone.

speaker icon

Copyright: Peter J. Smith 2005 Return to helarc.com