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WEDNESDAY, DEC. 14, 2016 – A wayward owl that found itself inside a supermarket in Riverside is now back in the wild.

Riverside County Animal Services officers were able to safely capture the bird of prey this morning and release it. The officers, Lt. James Huffman and Officer Cecelia Morris, also received great assistance from a local woman, Karolyn Verville, a founder of a nonprofit wildlife rescue organization in Riverside.

The trio, however, struggled to get the owl to understand they were there to help at the Vons supermarket at the Riverside Plaza, 3545 Central Ave.

“It turned into a rather big event,” Lt. Huffman said, smiling. “Everyone was watching us try to capture it. Pretty much the entire store was fixated on the great owl capture.”

As they raced to one side of the store to catch up with the owl, the bird flew to a different section.

“It particularly enjoyed the fresh produce area and the alcohol aisle,” Huffman said. “The last thing we wanted to do was swing our nets around with all that expensive booze on the shelves.”

The burrowing owl had actually ended up in the store sometime late Tuesday night. Employees told the officers that everyone had hoped the owl would find its own way back out. But when it was still inside this morning, Riverside County Animal Services got the call.

Officers responded at about 10 a.m. and closed out the call by about noon.

“People were calling out to us, ‘It went that way!’” Huffman recalled. “I was able to get him in my net once, but my net got snagged as I tried to complete the capture and the owl escaped.”

Ultimately Ms. Verville and Officer Morris successfully snared the owl and, shortly thereafter, Morris sent the owl into the sky and back into the wild.

“It was last seen near the delivery dock,” Huffman said. “We think it was taking a bit of a rest to regain its bearings before heading out on its next adventure. We’re just happy we were able to get it and return it safely to where it belongs.” 

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