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Minnesota rehab complete, 'D.C. Snowy' ready to take flight


If you come to Minnesota for rehab you're in good company.

That's true in the world of addiction, but also in the world of raptors. And a certain well-known snowy owl might spread the word about those helpful Minnesotans when it's released Saturday and heads (presumably) back up to the arctic.

And what stories that bird could tell.

The owl gained fame when it was found in Washington D.C., after apparently being struck by a bus. After stops at the National Zoo and a Washington animal rescue center, the road to recovery led to the University of Minnesota's Raptor Center.

Apart from being injured by the collision, the owl had some burned feathers which are pretty useless for flying. The Raptor Center's clinic manager performed a procedure that amounts to a feather transplant.

Early this month the Center's staff took "D.C. Snowy" out for a test-fly of the new feathers and things went well.

Snowy owls are not used to beltways or buses or chimneys because they live on the arctic tundra, perching on the ground for easy access to mice, lemmings, or voles. But the Department of Natural Resources lists them among Minnesota birds because periodically – when winters are harsh in Canada – they're known to visit the U.S. ("invasion years" the DNR calls those).

This winter qualified as a harsh one and National Geographic reports snowy owls - lured by a boom in the lemming population – made their largest migration down the Atlantic seaboard in at least 20 years.

Then there was that bus.

It was one of many hard knocks absorbed by urban wildlife across North America this winter, the Atlantic notes.

But after a transplant and three weeks of exercise, the Raptor Center has deemed "D.C. Snowy" ready to fly away home.

The Associated Press says the Center plans to release the bird along with another snowy owl that was recovered in Superior, Wisconsin.

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