A concerned woman pulled into the parking lot of Marsh Park in the evening of July 27 as it was closing because she saw Fairfield Park Ranger Jeff Larsh’s patrol vehicle.
There was an injured animal just south of the park on River Road that turned out to be a barred owl, he said.
“She said she was on her way to work in the morning and saw an owl — at first she thought was a raccoon off to the side of the road and she didn’t think too much about it,” said Larsh, adding he didn’t get her name. “Then on the way home it was still there.”
It’s believed the owl was hit by a car along the busy blind curve near Georgetown Road, which is just outside the city limits in Fairfield Twp. The owl had been there at least 13 hours, Larsh said, before he was called to help.
After a phone call to Raptor, Inc., a Milford-based animal-rescue organization that saves birds of prey like owls, Larsh approached the bird.
“They said it would probably let you walk up on it if it hasn’t moved all day,” he said.
Larsh used a lightweight jacket and put it over the bird, then picked it up and placed it in the back of his SUV. He said Fairfield Police Sgt. Sandy Sears then brought up a box with towels — which was recommended by Raptor, Inc. — as they waited on a volunteer from the rescue organization .
The bird wasn’t eating well, and was filled with parasites when Raptor, Inc. took possession. But Larsh said a few days later “it was doing a lot better and eating on its own.”
“Physically it was going to make it,” said Larsh, who retired in 2015 from the Forest Park Police Department as a lieutenant and who had three K-9 partners serving with that department.
The bird was believed to be born in the spring. Barred owls grow to about 1½ to 2 pounds and are about 2 feet long.
Raptor, Inc. Executive Director Cindy Alverson said the bird is “progressing nicely” and is living outside in the facility’s enclosure where rescuers said it is flying and eating well.
A concern about the bird’s eyesighthas resolved itself, Alverson said.
Fellow Fairfield Park Ranger Dennis Valentini jokingly called Larsh the “animal whisperer.”
A couple of days before rescuing the injured owl, he relocated a large snapping turtle estimated to weigh about 35 pounds to Marsh Lake from near Sacred Heart Church at Nilles and River Road.
He said he frequently helps rescue smaller box turtles trying to cross busy roadways and relocate non-dangerous snakes.