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Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center Mourns Loss
of Avian Ambassador and Beloved Barred Owl

Mystic, CT (June 14, 2012) The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center regrets to announce the loss of their beloved barred owl named Tommy. Known as a gentle and affectionate ambassador for the Nature Center, this barred owl had a place in the hearts of many in the community.

“Tommy was the first bird of prey used regularly in our outreach programs,” said Kim Hargrave, Director of Education at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. “He would bring awe and wonder to the faces of those who met him. I found it inspiring to share a bit of his world with others.”

Even though Tommy was a common woodland owl, there wasn’t anything common about how he made people feel. Whether it was visiting a school, library, scouting group or senior center, Tommy was always ready to answer back in the distinctive eight-hooted vocalization familiar to our childhood camping days. “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you– all?”

The Barred Owl (Strix varia) name refers to the crosswise bars on the breast and lengthwise streaks on the belly of this beautiful puffy-headed owl. In the Eastern United States, it is the only owl with dark bluish-brown eyes. Barred Owls usually nest in a tree cavity or in an abandoned nest of a hawk or crow near red maple swamps or marshes. They will also use man-made nest boxes. They prefer a diet of mice and small mammals, but will wade into vernal pools for a frog, salamander or snake. The Barred Owl falls prey to the Great-horned Owl, but more meet an untimely demise by vehicle.

And this is how Tommy came to be a beloved resident for the last 10 years at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. In his youth, he had an unfortunate encounter with a vehicle and sustained the partial loss of his left wing, which prevented him from surviving on his own in the wild.

His rescuer was Doris Mager, bird rehabilitator and tireless worker for the conservation and preservation of American raptors (birds of prey). Mager is from North Carolina and founder of Save Our American Raptors, Inc. (S.O.A.R.). She is affectionately known as “the eagle lady” to those who have been fortunate enough to attend one of her programs around the country or here in Mystic.

In the last few years, Tommy had retired from outreach service due to cataracts. A smaller enclosure indoors allowed him to find his food more easily and socialize with visitors. It is estimated that the famed barred owl from Mystic met over 250,000 visitors at the Nature Center and thousands of others during outreach programming.

Throughout the years, Tommy the Barred Owl was part of the Adopt-An-Animal fundraising program at the Nature Center and benefitted from the generosity of many supporters willing to help pay for his food and care. “We like to think he had everything he wanted here at the Nature Center because of the caring and compassionate staff and community in this area. We’re not sure how to fill the hole he leaves behind. We do know what inspired people to care about him continues on.” said Maggie Jones, Executive Director of the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center.

If desired, donations may be made in his memory for a new raptor enclosure scheduled to be built by a volunteer timber framing group this fall.

Since 1946, the Nature Center has provided visitors and the community with experiential science programs that further the Center’s mission: to inspire and nurture appreciation and scientific understanding of the natural world and foster a personal environmental ethic. The Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center (DPNC) serves 50,000 people each year with environmental science programs. Made possible through the generosity and commitment of the Denison Homestead, the Nature Center is a private, not-for-profit organization funded by admission fees, memberships and contributions. With 10 miles of trails, live animals, and a natural history museum, the Nature Center provides many rewarding recreational and educational opportunities.



Tommy Hooting

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enclosures for our raptor ambassadors

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Kim Hargrave (Education Director)
with Tommy

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Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center
109 Pequotsepos Road, P.O. Box 122, Mystic, CT 06355.
Phone: (860) 536-1216 | Fax: (860) 536-2983
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