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Owl injured on Bryher dies in Newquay sanctuary

A Long-eared Owl believed to have been shot on Bryher has died after being transported to Newquay.

The owl, which was discovered injured by local birder Kris 'Spider' Webb on May 7, passed away overnight on Saturday, thought to be due to the stress of recent events.

Kris wrote on Facebook after finding it at Popplestone: "I am very upset and fuming at whoever shot this stunning Long-eared Owl on Bryher that I picked up today. The police have been informed and they will be investigating into the incident."

Kris told This is Scilly News of finding the owl: "I heard a blackbird going crazy in the bushes. I thought it was either a cat or an owl and sure enough it was the owl that Higgo [birder John Higginson] found over two weeks ago."

After it ditched on the ground and was unable to get up, he realised one of its wings was damaged. "I had an idea it had been shot but I'm no expert. I got the idea from photographs of other owls and buzzards that had been shot in the wing.

"I managed to catch it and put it in the back of my rucksack and took it back to St Mary's to the vet. She opened the wing up and said yes, it's been shot. I took it home to look after and kept it in my room in a cage under a blanket. I'd like to say thank you to Anna and Arthur Swift who gave me a cage and helped me out a lot."

Kris took care of the owl until the weather was good enough for it to be flown to Newquay Screech Owl Sanctuary. "It's a lot of work," he said beforehand. "I wouldn't mind looking after it to be honest but it needs the freedom of flying in a big aviary."

In the meantime, he informed the police and was told to spread the word "far and wide". He also showed photos of the owl's injuries to people who shoot birds, both locally and on the mainland, later posting on Facebook: "The owl was X-rayed yesterday and thank goodness it had no pellets in it giving it a very good chance of flying again.

"However, this does not mean that it was not shot. The vet said that the owl had been shot at. I showed pictures to eight people who shoot, six from Scilly and two from the mainland. [All of them said] it looks like it's been shot at."

After some Scilly residents expressed disbelief that anyone on the islands would shoot an owl or that its injuries were caused by a shotgun, he went on:

"One very experienced shooter over here said that it was caused by a gunshot and not a dog, cat, crows, seagulls, [it didn't hit anything], it was no doubt a gun. The hallmarks ring out that it was hit by shotgun pellets. The vet said it was shot, so you don't need the evidence of the pellet in the wing when you have the experts."

He told This is Scilly News later: "It's hard to believe, that's the problem. It could have been an accident, I have to make that clear. It could have been kids, it could have been naive teenagers. But you cannot mistake an owl from a pheasant or partridge, things you are allowed to shoot."

Shooters elsewhere on the islands are very unhappy about the incident as it reflects on them and "they don't go around shooting owls", said Kris.

"A lot of people on Bryher are unhappy too and want to find whoever did this. I've had so many people come up to me, from Bryher and Tresco too, and say I've done a good thing and they're really upset about it."

The owl was able to fly to Newquay on May 13 but did not survive its first night on the mainland. Kris revealed on Facebook: "Sad news. The owl didn't make it while in the sanctuary. The sanctuary also believed that it had been shot! Well we tried and thanks to everyone for their support and who helped out."

Although sharing the story on social media has attracted some criticism, Kris stressed that he had been told to spread the news. He added: "Even if they don't catch the person - and I don't believe they will - it'll hopefully make people think before they shoot something. If it saves one owl or one buzzard and helps protect the species, that's a good thing."

Sergeant Mary Ross said: "We are investigating and if anyone has any relevant information then please contact the police station on 01720 422444 and leave a message for PC Nic Gould, who is the officer in the case."

#birding #wildlife

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