OTTAWA — It’s the last place you’d expect to see someone hunting, let alone for a Thanksgiving bird.
But there they were, armed with a pellet rifle and dressed in camouflage as they set out on the hunt for a bird last Saturday in Mud Lake Conservation Area, popular for its wooded trails and wildlife and set within city limits in Britannia.
Jennifer MacMillan and a friend were taking a stroll on the trails around 6 p.m. last Saturday when she heard a loud popping sound right before a barred owl fell from the treetops and started flopping around on the forest floor.
“You could see that Muddy The Owl was scared and freaked out,” recalled MacMillan, who had her friend call 911 while she comforted Muddy.
“Then I heard a rustle ahead and a man appeared from the bush. He was looking for what he had shot but saw me instead, turned and ran back into the bush.
It was at this point that a second hunter appeared from the woods, and in broken English, asked “Is that something you eat?”, she recalled.
“They were going to have Thanksgiving Owl and I was completely disgusted,” MacMillan said.
Ottawa Police showed up quickly and, after a foot chase, captured the hunter who shot Muddy The Owl and showed him the back seat of a cruiser. “The police asked me to identify the shooter in the back of the police car (and) I recognized him as the person who shot Muddy.”
Because the conservation area is managed by the National Capital Commission, police handed the case over to NCC enforcement officers who fined the shooter $615 for hunting on NCC land.
The NCC told the Citizen it’s against their policy to publicly identify the man who shot Muddy.
Muddy, suffering from a fractured wing, was taken by an NCC officer to Ottawa’s Wild Bird Care Centre (http://www.wildbirdcarecentre.org).
“It’s so cruel, and for what? Someone’s amusement?,” said Deborah Hass, the centre’s executive director.
Muddy wasn’t doing so well and appeared to be in severe pain. The larger bones of an owl are hollow, so instead of clear fractures that can be mended, they are more likely to splinter or smash on impact, making it impossible to put the pieces back together.
On Wednesday afternoon, Muddy The Owl had to be euthanized after X-rays revealed the worst.