Darci Dougherty, an environmental conservation officer with NYSDEC, was driving with her partner near Napoli, NY in Cattaraugus County this December. Someone along the road flagged them down.
“He was trying to take off and he could fly for 15 or 20 feet at the most and then he was right back down on the ground,” said Dougherty.
She was talking about an injured snowy owl.
After a small chase, the owl was captured and taken to the Messinger Woods Wildlife Center in Orchard Park for its broken wing.
“When you've got something that bad and all the organ levels were shut down, or shutting down, they don't have much a chance to make it,” said Marrianne Hites of Messinger Woods.
Veterinarians thought euthanasia might be the best option. But, since snowy owls are so rare in western New York, they decided to give the animal a chance.
After a successful surgery on its wing, the bird was kept in captivity for months. Until it was ready to be released into the wild.
Wednesday evening, the sun started to fade in rural Niagara County. Along a doubled yellow-lined road, a dozen people watched a bird, once close to death, take off.
“It's good to see it come full circle, from us capturing the bird to now us being able to go out and see it actually go back out and give it a chance,” said Dougherty.
“I feel really good. It's a great feeling. A lot of the endings aren't this happy,” said Hites, who let go of the bird for the last time.
An animal rarely seen in western New York; an even rarer rescue.