Hoot the Barred Owl, who made his home at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center for almost 20 years, died Tuesday.
Hoot was one of the Nature Center’s most well-known and beloved animal ambassadors, touching the lives of thousands of children and adults each year as part of the center’s outreach nature education programs. Hoot lived in an outdoor enclosure with a Barred Owl that arrived at the Center in 2014, named Ozzy.
Hoot was humanely euthanized by the Nature Center’s veterinarian on Tuesday evening after being found on the floor of the enclosure on Monday afternoon by staff. After an examination by veterinarians it was determined that Hoot, who may have been as old as 30, had likely suffered some type of cardiac incident and fallen from his perch. In the fall, he suffered wing and head injuries. Because of his advanced age, any surgery would have required a long and difficult recovery, with a good outcome not guaranteed. Nature Center Executive Director Maggie Jones, in consult with the vet, determined that the most humane path was euthanization.
“Hoot was an old friend,” Jones said Wednesday. “He has been at the Nature Center almost as long as I have! He will be missed by all of us, and by his new companion Ozzy.”
Hoot came to the Nature Center in 1996, one of a bonded pair of Barred owls sent from the Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Massachusetts, which was closing down its raptor rehab facility. Hoot and Nanny, as the pair were named upon their arrival, were an immediate hit with the public. Hoot had been struck by a car and was unable to fly, rendering him unreleasable. Nanny died about five years ago.
The Barred Owl (Strix varia) is one of the most common in Connecticut. They inhabit dense, mature woodlands and swamps. Their distinctive “who cooks for you? who cooks for you all?” hoot and other lively vocalizations can be heard throughout the year.