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Wildlife Rehab Group Helping Albino Owl in Northeast Iowa

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — An albino barred owl is going through rehab in Cedar Falls.

KWWL reports the owl has been in wildlife rehabilitation since Animal Control officers picked it up over the weekend.

Linda Nebbe with the Black Hawk Rehabilitation Project has been rehabilitating animals for decades, but never an animal like an albino barred owl.

“Wow!  It’s really fun to have an animal that is so unique.  Every now and then we get somebody that isn’t ordinary.  That’s really awesome and exciting and an opportunity to learn like crazy,” says Nebbe, a licenses wildlife rehabilitator.

Animal Control officers found the bird along Main Street in Cedar Falls on Saturday.  At the time, Nebbe says it was apparent something was wrong with the owl.

“He was uncoordinated, he was not perky, lethargic, not wanting to eat and very, very dry.  I don’t know what he ate or what it did to him but it did seem to impact his whole body for a short time,” says Nebbe.

She says the owl is less than a year old and was been deemed healthy, though slightly underweight, by a veterinarian Tuesday.

Albinism is an exciting find in a bird that’s common to the area.

“What we don’t know about is the albinism and how it impacts him.  We’ve been learning a lot really fast.  We’ve talked with other rehabilitators and this is not a common occurrence,” says Nebbe.

The all-volunteer Black Hawk Rehabilitation Project is keeping a close eye on the owl for at least the next few weeks and hopes to learn more in order to educate people.

Part of our philosophy is we can help a million animals but if we don’t change the way people look at them, think about them and act with them, we’re really not doing a lot to help,” says Nebbe.

What’s next for the owl after it’s rehabilitated?

Nebbe says her organization is split on whether to return it to the wild — where it may not last very long — or keep it in captivity so that others could see it — and the scientific community could learn from it.

They say they have several weeks to determine that and the decision will probably be made in consultation with the Federal Wildlife and Fisheries and the Iowa DNR.

Nebbe says the owls are very much similar to eagles. They are social animals,  so they stay with their mate and take care of their young.

The odds of an albino barred owl are one in 1,800.

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