Snowy Owl mount given to Prairie Elementary
WORTHINGTON — Last winter along a gravel road southwest of Worthington, local Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Gary Nordseth discovered an injured female Snowy Owl.
There were no power lines around, no windmills and no indication of cause for the bird’s demise, but Nordseth knew it wasn’t going to survive.
Considered one of the most powerful North American owls, the Snowy Owl is a rarity in these parts. Its home is typically in the Arctic Tundra, although there are occasional sightings in northern Minnesota.
State and federal laws protecting owls and other birds of prey require they only be possessed for educational purposes, so Nordseth looked to Prairie Elementary School in Worthington as a possible display site for the owl. His own children became fascinated with owls during second grade when their teacher read them “Owl Moon” by Jane Yolen.
So, on Thursday morning, dozens of second grade students gathered around teacher Laurie Landwehr to hear the story of a child and her father who ventured into the woods at dusk to call for owls.
The story followed Nordseth’s presentation of the Snowy Owl.
“I thought this Snowy Owl would make a great addition to (Landwehr’s) reading program as she tries to stir the children’s imagination and build their love for both reading and the outdoors,” Nordseth said.
After meeting with members of the local Optimist Club, an organization that provides thousands of dollars in funding each year for programs and activities that benefit children, the club agreed to help pay the taxidermy costs to have the owl mounted for display.
Jim Slocum, owner of True Life Taxidermy at Reading, completed the mount, with the owl perched on a pair of deer antlers that had been seized from a poacher.
Nordseth said the Snowy Owl, also known as an Arctic Owl or Great White Owl, nests on the ground because its normal habitat on the Arctic Tundra is void of trees.
“When they fly, they can hover like a helicopter,” Nordseth told the students. The Snowy Owl has “excellent hearing,” and can hover over an area and hear a mouse rustling in the snow.
“These owls like to hunt during the day,” he shared.
When Nordseth told the students the female Snowy Owl is bigger and stronger than the male Snowy Owl, there were cheers and jeers among the kids. Upon first sight, some wondered aloud if the owl was real.
Optimist Club members said they were excited to fund an educational exhibit for the school.
“Everything we do is for kids,” said Carolyn Kruger.
“The kids can enjoy this for years and years and years,” added her husband and fellow Optimist member G.L. “Snuffy” Kruger.
Prairie Elementary Principal Joshua Noble said the Snowy Owl will be displayed in the school’s Media Center, for the entire student body to appreciate. Teachers will be able to bring it to their room for programs if they wish.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.