Press Room

7-9 March 2014 Houston, Minnesota USA

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10.It'stheonlyfull-weekend,all-owleventinNorthAmerica.

9.Ya,sure,youbetcha.We'reMinnesotanicehere.

8.Haveahootlearningaboutowls.

7.You'vegottoseetheowlfacepancakesandotherowlthemedfoodtobelieveit.

6.Whereelsecanyousing"happyhatch-day"toaGreatHornedOwlandnotgetthrownintothelooneybin?

5.There'snoagelimitonhavingyourfacepaintedlikeanowl(oralltheotherfunkidsactivities.)

4.Lettheexpertscallinwildowlsforyou.

3.Seeatleastsevenormorespeciesofcaptiveliveowls.

2.Meetsomeoftheworld'stop"owlologists"atthebanquetandWorldOwlHallofFameawardpresentation.(It'skindofa"hoo'shoo"ofowlpeople.)

1.WhatelseistheretodoinMinnesotainearlyMarch???

Manypeoplethinkitwouldbefuntohaveanowlforapet,butfewpeoplehaveanytruecomprehensionofwhatisinvolvedincaringforone.

Itisillegaltokeepowlswithoutspecialpermitsinmostcountries.Somecountriesissuepermitstoindividualstokeepowlsafternecessarytrainingandproperfacilitieshavebeenbuilt.TheUnitedStatesdoesnotallowprivateindividualstokeepnativeowlsaspets--theymayonlybepossessedbytrained,licensedindividualswhilebeingrehabilitated,asfosterparentsinarehabilitationfacility,aspartofabreedingprogram,foreducationalpurposes,orcertainspeciesmaybeusedforfalconryinsomestates(althoughtheyrarelymakegoodfalconrybirds.)Evenintheseinstances,thepersonlicensedtokeeptheowldoesnot"own"thebird--theU.S.FishandWildlifeServiceretains"stewardship"ofthebirdssothattheymayrecallthematanytimeifpermitconditionsarenotbeingmet.

AlicetheGreatHornedOwlisinabitofaninterestingsituation.SheworksattheHoustonNatureCenter,whichisstaffedbyasingleindividual.Thefacilityisn'tstaffedsevendaysaweek,noristhereasecurelocationforhertostayovernight,soAlicelivesatthehomeofherlicensedhandler,KarlaBloem. Alicewasinjuredsoyoungthatshegrewupthinkingshe'sapersonandconsidersKarlatobehermate.Asaresult,shegetslonelyandgivesbeggingcallsifhousedinapenoutdoors.

Throughaseriesofbabysteps,AliceeventuallymovedintoKarla'shome.ThisinvolvedallkindsofmodificationstomakethesituationsafeandhealthyforAlice.ItalsoallowedAlicetofreelyinteractwithKarla,andpresentedtheuniqueopportunityforKarlatoconductthefirst-evervocalstudyonGreatHornedOwls.IthasalsogivenKarlaaveryuniqueperspectiveonwhyowlsdon'tmakegoodpets.

Top10ReasonsYouDon'tWantanOwlforaPet

10.Takingavacationorgoingonabusinesstripisdifficult.Youcan'tjusttaketheowlwithyou(especiallysinceintheUnitedStatespermitsareusuallyneededeverytimeyoucrossstatelines.)Ittakesatrainedpersontotakecareofanowl,andifyouhaveahuman-imprintedowllikeAlice,theymaybeaggressivewithanyoneelsewhocomestotakecareofthem.Owlsalsolikeroutine,sodisruptiontothenormalschemeofthingsisverystressfulforthem.

9.Owlscanbeverydestructive.Theyhaveanaturalkillinginstinctthatcanbeappliedtoblankets,pillows,clothing,stuffedanimals,andjustaboutanythingelsethatcanbeshredded.Talonsarealsoreallybadforwoodwork. Theybringoutthenaturalgrainofthewoodreallywellastheystripoffthefinish.

8.Matingseasoninvolvesalotofall-nightracket.Remember,owlsareactiveatnight,sothat'swhenthey'llbehootingandcallingduringmatingseason.Sinceshethinksshe'sahuman,AlicedirectsherhootingatKarla,andKarlaisexpectedtohootwithher.AlicecangetquitecrabbyifKarladoesn'tspendtimehootingwithherseveraltimesaday(earlymorningandlateevening)duringthistimeofyear.Ifyouhaveneighborsnearby,theywon'tbeveryhappyaboutthenoise.

7.Owlsdon'tliketobepettedandcuddled. Captiveowlsstillretaintheirnaturalinstincts,andtraditional"petting"doesn'tgenerallyfitintotheowlschemeofthings.EventhoughKarlahaslivedwithAlicesince1998,AlicestillbitesifKarlatriestopetherontheback.

6.Owlsarehighmaintenance.Theyrequiredailyfeeding,cleaning,andattention,especiallyhuman-imprintedowlslikeAlice.Owlsthatarecapableofflyingneedtobeflownregularly,orhousedinverylargecageswheretheycangetadequateexercise.

5.Owlsarelong-lived.AGreatHornedOwlcouldlive30ormoreyearsincaptivityifthingsgowell.Smallspeciescouldlive10years.Takingonthecareofanowlisalong-termcommitment.

4.Beaksandtalonsaresharp.Ifanowldoesn'tlikewhatyou'redoing,it'sgoingtoletyouknow.Andyoumightwindupbleedingbecauseofit.It'salsoeasyforanowltoscratchyoueveniftheyaren'ttryingiftheystepupontoyourglovedfistbutstandoffthesideofthegloveonyourbarearm.

3.Owlsneedspecializedcare.Mostveterinariansdon'thavethenecessarytrainingtoproperlycareforowls,soyou'dneedtofindavetwho'scomfortableworkingwithanowl.Andyouasacaregiverneedtoknowquiteabitaboutowlhealthalso,includingwhat"normal"pooplookslike,whichverysubtlebehaviorsmightindicatehealthproblems,provideproperperchingsurfaces,ahealthydiet,appropriatehousing,andregulartalonandbeakmaintenance.ThereisaLOTtoknow,whichiswhypropertrainingisnormallyrequiredbeforepermitsareissued.

2.Feathers,pellets,andpoop!Owlsmoltthousandsoffeatherseveryyear,andtheywindupeverywhere.Owlsthrowuppelletsoffurandboneswherevertheyhappentobeatthetime.Andpoophappens.Alot.Inadditionto"regular"poop(likemostbirds),owlsalsoemptyoutthececaattheendoftheirintestinesaboutonceaday.Thisdischargeistheconsistencyofchocolatepudding,butsmellsasbadasthenastiestthingyoucanimagine.Anditstainssomethingawful.Keepingowlsinvolvesnon-stopcleaning.

1.FOOD.Youcan'tjustgodowntothelocalgrocerystoreandbuyOwlChow.Owlsarestrictcarnivoresandrequiredietsofwholeanimalsforproperhealth.ForAlice,thattranslatesintoherownchestfreezerstockedwithpocketgophers,rats,rabbits,andmice.EachdayKarlathawsananimalforher,removestheorgansAlicewon'teat,andservesitupforAlice.Leftoversfromthepreviousdaymustbelocatedandremoved,asowlsliketocache(orhide)leftoverfoodforlater.Ifyou'renotpreparedtothawandcutupdeadanimalseverynightofyourlifefor10yearsormore,youaren'tupforhavinganowl.

TheInternationalFestivalofOwlsoriginallystartedasa"hatch-day"partyforAlicetheGreatHornedOwlin2003. Aliceisapermanentlyinjured,human-imprintedowlwhoworksattheHoustonNatureCenter. Sinceshe'stheonlyliveanimalatthecenterandlivesatthehomeofherhandler,shequicklybecamethecenterofattention. The"hatch-day"partyideaservedseveralpurposes:

  • Taughtpeopleaboutowls
  • Providedafun,family-friendlyactivityattheendofwinter
  • RaisedmoneyfortheHoustonNatureCenter
  • Promotedtourismduringanotherwiseslowtimeofyear
  • Thefirstfestivalwasawonderfulsuccess,evenwithlittleadvertising. ItturnsoutthatnooneelsewasdoinganythinglikeitinNorthAmerica. TheonlythingclosewasaonedayBurrowingOwlFestivalinCapeCoral,Florida.

    Ourfestivalrapidlygrewintotheonlyfull-weekend,all-owlfestivalinNorthAmerica. PeoplestartedcomingfromalloverNorthAmericatoattend.

    ThenwecreatedtheWorldOwlHallofFametobringrecognitiontoowlsandhumansdoingamazingthingstomakethisworldabetterplaceforowls. ThisbringsawardwinnersfromallovertheworldtoHouston,andgetsequallywidespreadmediacoverage.

    The2013festivalattractedapproximately1,800people(whichisprettygoodconsideringthatHoustonisn'texactlyclosetoanymajorpopulationcentersandonlyhasapopulationof979!)

    FestivalattendeeshavecomefromallovertheUnitedStates,Canada,Jamaica,England,TheNetherlands,Germany,Norway,Nepal,Taiwan,Kenya,andSouthAfrica.

    TheInternationalFestivalofOwlsisheldannuallythefirstweekendinMarch,whichisaboutwhenAlicetheGreatHornedOwlhatchedinAntigo,Wisconsin. IttakesplacethroughoutHoustonMN.

     

    AlicetheGreatHornedOwl

    EarlyMarch1997-Alicehatchesinanoldsquirrel'snestwithherbrotheratthetopofa60foottallpinetreeonHoganStreetinAntigo,WI

    LateMarchorearlyApril-Fallsoutofnestandbreaksleftwingjustabovetheelbowjoint.CaredforbyinternationallyknownwildliferehabilitatorMargeGibsonoftheRaptorEducationGroup,Inc.Wingcannotbehealedwellenoughforflightduetolocationoffracture/dislocation.

    Spring/summer1997-RaisedtobeaneducationbirdinGibson'shomesoshewillbecomfortablearoundhumans.

    9September1998-Getsajobworkingfortheup-and-comingHoustonNatureCenterafterafederalworkpermitissecured.MovestoHouston,MNtolivewithhandler,KarlaBloem.Housedinanoutdoorpen.

    24November1998-Beginsdoingpubliceducationalprograms.

    1October1999-Alice'sfirstradiointerviewonKGCountryinWinona.Chittersinmicrophonelikeapro.

    21December1999-Lonelyinoutsidepenandsomewhatill,somovedintoKarla'shome.

    25May2000-BeginscommutingtoworkatthetemporaryHoustonNatureCenter

    11November2000-Alice'sfirstrealterritorialhoot

    17March2001-Alicevisitshernestsite,rescuers,andGibsoninAntigo,WI.Seemstorecognizenesttreeandyard.

    Summer2001-HoustonNatureCenterisconstructed.Muchcontroversy.SomeadversariestalkofshootingAlice,andchildrenareoverheardindaycareplaying"shoottheowl."Alocalconservationofficeriscontacted,butsayshecandonothingbecauseGreatHornedOwlsarespecificallynotprotectedbystatelawinMinnesota.U.S.Fish&WildlifeEnforcementclaimstheycandonothingunlessAliceisactuallyshot.Locallawenforcementdealswiththeissue.

    2002-WestNileVirussweepsacrossUnitedStates.SinceitisfataltoGreatHornedOwls,Alicenowbecomesanindoorbirdwithaperchinthenaturecenteroffice.

    22February2003-TheannualFestivalofOwls,inhonorofAlice'shatch-day,beginsinHouston,MN

    January2004-FirstTVinterviewonUPN-TV23inLaCrosse,WI

    5June2004-Alice'sfirstkill--acamelcricketinKarla'skitchen

    November2004-AliceNewsblogbegun.

    Spring2005-TestifiesbeforetheMinnesotaHouse&SenateEnvironmentcommitteesforremovalofGreatHornedOwlsfromMinnesota's"unprotectedbirds"list.Passesunanimouslyandissignedbygovernor.LawtakeseffectAugust1.

    1August2005-ThefirstGreatHornedOwlpermitinMinnesotaisissuedtoAlice.

    5January2009-Alicelaysherfirstegg. Sheeatsitthreedayslater. Shelaysandincubateseggsproperlyeveryyearthereafter.

    6March2010-AlicereceivestheWorldOwlHallofFame'sLadyGray'lAward

    April2011-Aliceisfilmedasaclose-updoubleforwildGreatHornedOwlstoappearinafilmbyFergusBeeleyonSnowyOwls. TheGreatHornedOwlpartdidn'tmakethefinalcut,however.

    Fall2011-Aliceappearsinanepisodeof"Pets101"featuringnocturnalanimalsonAnimalPlanet.


    Favoritefood:pocketgopherheads

    Hobbies:wildlifewatching,shreddingeggcartons,andhootingatthewildneighborowls

     

    Alice'sHandler(a.k.a.KarlaBloem)

    TheShortandSweetBio

    Karla(Kinstler)Bloem,a.k.a."TheOwlLady,"istheDirector/NaturalistoftheHoustonNatureCenterinHouston,MN.ShelivesandworkswithAlice,apermanentlyinjuredGreatHornedOwlwhoforeverchangedherlifewhenshecametolivewithKarla.ThecloserelationshipbetweenKarlaandAlicehasledtoanin-depthvocalstudyonGreatHornedOwls,anannualInternationalFestivalofOwls,andplansforanInternationalOwlCenterinHouston,MN.Karla'sowladventureshavetakenhertotestifybeforetheMinnesotaHouseandSenateenvironmentcommitteestogainprotectionforGreatHornedOwlsin2005,topresentherresearchinTheNetherlands,GermanyandArgentina,andwonheraBushLeadershipFellowshipin2008.


    TheDry,BoringVersion

    June1990-ValedictorianofSpringGrove(MN)HighSchool'sclassof1990.

    1990-94-AttendedLutherCollegeinDecorah,IA,andworkedastheassistantmuseumcuratorintheHoslettMuseumofNaturalHistory.GraduatedsummacumlaudeandPhiBetaKappa.

    September1994-PublishedaresearchpaperonthevocalbehaviorofEasternandWesternMeadowlarksinthePrairieNaturalist.

    1994-98-WorkedasaseasonalnaturalistatForestville/MysteryCaveStateParknearPreston,MN.

    1995-96-Workedasaninstructor/naturalistattheForestResourceCenter(nowEagleBluff)inLanesboro,MN.

    1995-99-FlewAmericanKestrelsasalicensedfalconer.

    1997-BeganplanningthenewHoustonNatureCenteronapart-timebasisfortheCityofHouston.

    1998-present-AcquiredAlicetheGreatHornedOwlthroughaneducationalpermitfromtheU.S.Fish&WildlifeServiceandbeganpresentingeducationalprogramswithher.

    2000-present-Hiredonfull-timeastheDirector/NaturalistoftheHoustonNatureCenter.

    2001-Co-authoredtheBirder'sGuidetoHoustonCountywithFredLesher.

    2001-ReceivedtheBrotherTheodoreVoelkerAwardforSpecialAchievementinFieldOrnithology/BirdingfromtheMinnesotaOrnithologists'Union.

    Spring2002-Co-authoredanarticledocumentingthefirstnestingrecordofaEurasianCollared-DoveinMinnesotainTheLoon.

    2003-present-CoordinatoroftheannualInternationalFestivalofOwlsinHouston,MN.

    2004-2009-Operatedawebsiteandinternetstoretobenefitowls.

    2004-BeganresearchtodocumentthecompletevocalrepertoireoftheGreatHornedOwlandlookforregionalandgendervariationsinterritorialhooting.

    Spring2005-TestifiedbeforetheMinnesotaHouseandSenateEnvironmentCommitteestogetGreatHornedOwlsremovedfromMinnesota's"unprotectedbirds"list.ThebillpassedunanimouslyandwentintoeffectonAugust1,2005,withAlicereceivingthefirstGreatHornedOwlpermitinMinnesota.

    2006-ReceivedtheHall/MayfieldAwardfromtheWilsonOrnithologicalSocietytohelpfundvocalstudy.

    2007-PresentedvocalstudyresearchattheWorldOwlConferenceinTheNetherlands.

    2008-ReceivedaBushLeadershipFellowshiptoworktowarddevelopinganInternationalOwlCenterinHouston,MN.

    2009-TechnicaleditorforthebookIntriguingOwlsbyStanTekiela.

    2010-ExpertowlbloggerfortheMinnesotaBoundowlcam.

    2011-ConsultantonGreatHornedOwlsforafilmonSnowyOwlsproducedbyFergusBeeley.

    2011-PresentedvocalstudyresearchattheannualA.G.EulenconferenceinGermany.

    2013-PresentedvocalstudyresearchattheIWorldwideRaptorConferenceinArgentina.

    MyabsolutefavoritepartoftheowlfestivalistheHallofFame. SomeofthemostprestigiousowlbiologistsintheworldcometoHoustontoreceivetheirawards,andit'sawesometobeabletogivethemalittlerecognitionforthefabulousworkthey'redoing.
    -KarlaBloem,festivalcoordinator

     

    MyjobastheDirector/NaturalistoftheHoustonNatureCenterisbothenvironmentaleducationandputtingHoustononthemap. IthinktheFestivalofOwlsdoesboth.
    -KarlaBloem,festivalcoordinator

     

    WefellinlovewithHouston,MNanditscommunityspirit.....Youhavesolidcommunitysupport,phenomenalparticipationbyyouth(wecouldhardlybelievethirty-sevenparticipantsintheowlcallingcontest!)....GreatpancakebreakfastattheLutheranchurchwithfriendlypeople.
    -Dr.C.StuartHouston,Saskatoon,Saskatchewan

    HowmuchmoneydoestheInternationalFestivalofOwlsgenerate?
    Thefestivalnetsabout$12,000preyear. TheHoustonNatureCenternetsapproximately$2,000frommerchandisesales. Thesefiguresdonotincludewhatisraisedatthepancakebreakfast,theSaturdaylunch,oranyofthemoneyspentatareabusinesses.

    WhydidyoustartaWorldOwlHallofFame?
    TheWorldOwlHallofFamewasstartedtobringrecognitiontoindividualswhohavededicatedtheirlivestoowls,andtoveryspecialindividualowlswho,inpartnershipwiththeirhumans,havedonemuchtohelptheirkind. ThehalloffamewasNorthAmericaninscopethefirstyear,andexpandedtoagloballevelin2007.

    Whatisitaboutowls?
    Biologicallyspeaking,theforwardfacingeyesofowlsgivethemasomewhathumanlookthatmaycapturepeople'sattentionandimagination. Butthere'ssomethingmorethanthat,somethingthat'snearlyimpossibletodefine. Owlshaveheldasignificantplaceinmostculturesthroughouttime--sometimesreveredandsometimeshated--buttheyplayedastrongroleeitherway. Ourcultureisnoexception. Ifitwas,thisfestivalwouldnotdrawoverhalfofitsattendeesfromoutsidethelocalarea!

    HowlongwillAlicetheGreatHornedOwllive?
    Ifallgoeswell,Alicecouldlive30ormoreyearsincaptivity. Andsinceshe'sgotitprettycushy(heat,airconditioning,livingindoorsandnotexposedtodiseases,gettingallshewantstoeatofherfavoritefoodeverynight),there'sagoodchanceshecouldbearoundforalongtimetocome.

    WorldOwlHallofFameAwardPresentations(earlyMarch)
    TheWorldOwlHallofFamerecognizesbothowlsandhumansfromaroundtheworldwhohavedoneamazingthingstomakethisworldabetterplaceforowls. JudgingtakesplaceinAugust,andwinnersaremadepublicinJanuary. RecipientsoftentravelfromforeigncountriestoHouston,MinnesotatoreceivetheirawardsandspeakattheInternationalFestivalofOwls.

    Wheneveranewowlbookormovieisreleased(HarryPotter,GuardiansofGa'Hoole,etc.)
    Thisanimportanttimetostressthatowlsdonotmakegoodpets.Mostkidsnaturallyloveowls,andhavingthembroughttotheforefrontthroughanowlbookormoviereleasealwaysresultsinanincreaseinpeoplewantingowlsforpets.

    Aliceisaperfectexampleofwhyowlsdon'tmakegoodpets.NotonlyisitillegalforpeopleintheUnitedStatestohaveanativeowlspeciesforapet,therearealotofgoodreasonsbehindthelaw.SeethearticlehereinthePressRoomforinformationaboutwhyowlsdon'tmakegoodpets.

    Owlfledgingtime(April-June)
    Thisisthetimeofyearwhenyoungowlsfledge,orleavethenest.Owlsnearlyalwaysleavethenestbeforetheycanfly,andtheirbodiesarestillfuzzyatthisstage(althoughtheyhavefullydevelopedwingfeathersandshorttailfeathers.)Manypeoplewhocomeacrossafledglingowlassumesomethingiswrongandpickituptogethelpforit.Inadvertentlytheseperfectlyhealthyowletsaremadeintoorphansbythesekind-heartedpeople.Fledglingswillspendafewdaystoacoupleofweeks(dependingonthespecies)ontheground,inlowbranches,orclimbingbackupintotrees(theycanclimbtrees!)beforetheycanflywell.MomandDadareusuallyclosebywatchingtomakesuretheyarefedandcaredforduringthistime.ThereismoreinformationhereinthePressRoomaboutwhattodoaboutsickandinjuredowls.


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