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Feathered Family Doesn't Give a Hoot

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The owls had two litters in the Van Antwerpen's chimney. The owls had two litters in the Van Antwerpen's chimney.
A young barn owl leaves as the Skunk Whisperer approaches. A young barn owl leaves as the Skunk Whisperer approaches.
The owls were encouraged to move to this owl box in the family's backyard. The owls were encouraged to move to this owl box in the family's backyard.

Darren Brown, News9.com

OKLAHOMA CITY -- When the Van Antwerpen family moved into their north Oklahoma City home two years ago, they hadn't planned on sharing it with another family, especially one with wings.

Living on the outskirts of the metro has its pros and cons.  There's less traffic, less noise and less trees.  Fewer trees doesn't really seem like a big deal, unless you count the fact that fewer trees means fewer places for wildlife to make a home.

Wildlife usually adapts to its surroundings, and a shortage of trees is no problem when there's an abundance of chimneys.

Kim Van Antwerpen remembers her family's first few months in its new home.

"We started hearing stuff in the chimney," said Van Antwerpen.  "And we kept trying to figure out what it was."

The mystery became clear at night, as the Van Antwerpens watched the huge barn owls hunting in the golf course near their home. 

"They have a huge wingspan," said Kim.  "And they have a cute white round face."

Perhaps they were cute, but they had some not-so-cute habits.

"They make a really loud screaming sound," Van Antwerpen continued.  "They're definitely messy.  I'm sure the neighbors see that problem as well." 

Kim and her husband contacted several agencies to deal with the owls, but it turns out they were a federally protected species, and not many wanted the hassle.

To make matters worse, the owls began having babies.  "I think they had four originally, Kim said.  "And then about twice a year they have another litter."

This is the owl family's second litter in the Van Antwerpen chimney.

The Van Antwerpens were referred to the Skunk Whisperer, a company that removes and relocates wild animals without the use of traps.  The company came out and took a look, but the young owls were barely hatched and too young to fly.

"We didn't want to  hurt them," Van Antwerpen said.  "But we wanted to properly remove them."

Chris Greenlee, with Skunk Whisperer's Oklahoma City office, seemed satisfied that the owls were old enough to move by now.

"The customers have been watching these owls sit on top of the gutters here at the house," Greenlee said.  "And watching mom teach them how to go out and fend for themselves."

When Greenlee and his crew approached the chimney, only one young owl was home, and he left quickly.  When the rest of the family returns though, they'll find the door locked.  Greenlee secured the chimney opening with some wire mesh.

"We're doing the right thing for them," Greenlee said.  "To get them back to where they belong."

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