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Posted - 31st January 23

ADSL HSE Team Safely Evacuate Owl Trapped in Army Training Building

Last December, while refurbishment works on the roof of a training building in Warminster were still underway, a pair of Tawny Owls were spotted inside the main hall.

Tawny Owls are nocturnal birds of prey considered endangered due to habitat loss, persecution, and use of pesticides on their core prey species. The Tawny Owl was moved onto the Amber List of Birds of Conservation Concern in 2015 because of concerns that it may have been undergoing long-term population decline.

The birds typically move in pairs, with the male and female calling to each other and resulting in the commonly heard owl sound, ‘too-wit too-woo’.

Unfortunately, following the initial sighting of the birds, one of the owls was found dead inside the building. At this point, it became imperative for the HSE team to find a way to safely evacuate the surviving bird.

Katy Lambert, HSE Advisor for Aspire Defence Services Limited, worked together with two Consultant Ecologists from J. Taylor Ecology Consulting, to come up with a plan to try to get the owl out of the building.

“Usually when birds are trapped inside buildings the first piece of advice is to leave windows open overnight to allow them to find their own way out. However, that was not an option for this particular building and with the Christmas holiday rapidly approaching, it was decided that an attempt to lure the owl out of the building should be made. A few people may have considered this a hare-brained plan, but we needed to do something,” Katy said.

What followed was a drastic and daring scheme made up of night vision camera traps, torches, a beat box, owl mating calls and predator sounds downloaded on a mobile phone, and several members of the team wrapped up in very warm clothing due to being in the middle of a cold snap, all in a bid to draw the owl out of the building.

After the first unsuccessful attempt to lure the bird out of the building, the team rallied a second time and was eventually able to catch the owl with a sheet. A brief check for injuries was conducted and its ring number recorded for future reference, before the owl was safely released close to the tree line about 30 metres away from the building.

Speaking further on the safe evacuation of the owl, Katy added,

“The following morning, I was very happy to report the mission was complete! This was an environmental success because it was important to ensure the safe removal of the bird and I’m pleased that we were able to achieve that.”

Environmental conservation and protection of endangered species of animals is an important objective for Aspire Defence Services Limited. Recently, the team completed installation of hedgehog homes in Bulford and badger tunnels in Larkhill to support the wildlife existing in its natural environment.

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