The three Great Horned owlets nesting in a tree just feet from a busy intersection in Mountain Shadows got a new home Tuesday as concerns mounted over their safety.
The young owls were relocated to the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, where they will learn how to fly and hunt on their own, said Michael Seraphin, the spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Once they can fend for themselves, they will be released back into the wild within 10 miles of Mountain Shadows, he said.
Since the weekend, crowds have gathered at the corner of Centennial Boulevard and Vindicator Drive to catch a glimpse of the birds, nesting in a tree at a Walgreens. Colorado Springs police had to resort to issuing citations to people for standing in the road and blocking traffic.
'We moved the birds to a rehabilitation facility for the benefit of the owls and to prevent people from getting injured by the adult owls or oncoming traffic, ' District Wildlife Manager Steve Cooley said.
Seraphin said wildlife officials were concerned the owls were approaching the age where they would jump out of the nest as they were attempting to learn how to fly. In the wild, young owls often spend time on the ground during their training, and wildlife officers were concerned for their safety due to their proximity to traffic. Seraphin said the birds are thought to be between 3 weeks and 5 weeks old.
In recent days, some people got too close to the owlets, even trying to climb the tree to get a better look and putting stress on the birds. Police eventually set up barricades surrounding the owls' area to keep the public away.
'We had a unique combination of public safety issues and concern for the young owls, ' Area Wildlife Manager Cory Chick said.
The adult owls were not relocated. They are expected to remain in the Mountain Shadows area, because they are capable of caring for themselves, Seraphin said.
Seraphin said the relocation efforts went well. There was one adult in the tree when wildlife officials approached at 11 a.m., but it quickly flew off.
'That made the operation a little less tense once it vacated the nest, ' he said. 'The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes. '