- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

SYKESVILLE, Md. (AP) - After a tough year, including being hit by a bus, losing his home and having his wing amputated, Tootsie Pop the owl has finally earned a place of rest.

Last weekend, Piney Run Park held a special Owlfest, celebrating the rehabilitated owl, which was rescued by a Hampstead Elementary School teacher last year. Tootsie Pop has now been moved outdoors into his permanent home at the Piney Run Park Nature Center, rooming with another owl that was injured in a collision with an SUV.

The event featured free admission for Hampstead Elementary students, owl-themed crafts, snacks and a meet-and-greet with the feathered celebrity himself.

Regina Michel said she was driving home behind a bus on Maryland 482 when she first saw the owl. She said he was struck and flipped over the top of the bus and landed in the road during the middle of rush hour traffic. After making a U-turn and returning to the scene of the strike, Michel said she pulled off onto the embankment and rushed out into the road to check on the injured bird.

“I get to him and I’m like, ‘Holy moley, he’s bigger than I thought.’” Michel said. “I had a pink sweatshirt on, so I pulled it off, bent down and took the arms of my sweatshirt and put them around him. As I did that, he turned and looked at me and started clicking, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, he’s going to peck my face off.’ But he calmed down, and I handed him to my son and went home.”

Michel said by the time she reached home, all of the local animal rescues were closed, so they placed the owl in a large crate for the night.

Because Michel was in the middle of a bird unit in her fifth-grade science class, she brought the owl into school the next day, while waiting for a reply from an animal rescue. She introduced the bird of prey to the class, which soon named it Tootsie Pop after the classic candy commercial where an impatient owl bites into a lollipop to get at the chocolate inside.

He was taken to Feathers, Scales and Tails Veterinary Hospital in Westminster for rehabilitation. There, they discovered Tootsie Pop had a broken wing that needed to be amputated.

During the healing process, Michel took pictures to bring to the classroom to update the students on his condition. Soon, Michel said Tootsie Pop became somewhat of a class icon.

Madison Muhles, one of Michel’s students, said it was neat to first see Tootsie Pop in the classroom.

“He got to spend the whole entire day with us,” Madison said. “He was looking around and flapping his wings. It was really cool.”

In December, after he was completely healed, Tootsie Pop was relocated to Piney Run Park, his soon-to-be permanent home. Due to his condition, he was kept indoors during the winter. Owlfest was held to celebrate his final move to an outdoor pen, where he will spend his days greeting visitors and chomping down mice.

Naturalist Max Bukowitz, of Piney Run, said the park will be Tootsie Pop’s retirement home. She said the event was held to give the Hampstead Elementary students an opportunity to see Tootsie Pop in a happy, healthy environment.

“The kids saw the owl before, when he was injured, but they didn’t have any follow-ups,” Bukowitz said. “He doesn’t need any meds or anything now. He just needs food, love and a great home.”

Michel she plans on taking future classes to Piney Run Park to check up on Tootsie Pop in years to come, and at the cage, Madison was already asking when she could come see Tootsie Pop again.


Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., https://www.carrollcounty.com/

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