An Owl Found Squirming In A Ditch Left Experts Scratching Their Heads

Even on the darkest nights, the soft hoot of a watchful owl inspires the kind of peace found only far away from the lights of a big city. That, plus their big, bright eyes and the careful way they move their feathered heads, makes it easy to see why they’re symbols of nobility and wisdom.

Yet when experts found an owl stuck in the wilderness of Eastern England, the poor bird didn’t appear up to her ilk’s reputation. Confused as to how she’d ended up in her position in the first place, experts knew there was only one move they could make to save the creature’s life.

In 2020, a concerned citizen spotted a creature in a roadside ditch that appeared unable to escape. On closer examination, they saw the poor thing was an owl struggling to move. It wobbled awkwardly around; clearly something wasn’t right.

NPR / Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Was the owl hurt? The person knew that approaching or handling the creature could do more damage inadvertently. Not knowing the best course of action for the bird, they called the experts to report an animal in distress.

Audubon / Mac Stone

Rufus Samkin, head falconer of the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary of eastern England, arrived on the scene to rescue what happened to be a breed of “little owl,” though little she was not. In fact, she was one of the biggest owls he’d ever encountered.

Instagram / Suffolk Owl Sanctuary

Based on her limited attempts at mobility, the owl sanctuary staff agreed that the owl wasn’t capable of flight. Also, she was soaking wet, which drastically impeded her ability to fly. So they took her to their facility to determine what held her back.

Southern Maryland Newspapers / The Enterprise

Due to her size, they nicknamed the little owl Plump. Not the most polite name, no, but it was also chosen more as a tribute to her extraordinary feat. It’s not every day you run into a portly owl out in nature.

BBC / Suffolk Owl Sanctuary

Scientists conducted a full examination to access Plump’s overall physical condition. Ultimately, everyone was most curious about her weight. They positioned her on the scale and as the final weight appeared, the room broke out in gasps of appreciation.

BBC / Suffolk Owl Sanctuary

The scale read 245 grams, falling into the classification of extremely obese. In comparison, the average adult female owl ranges from somewhere around 150-220 grams. They concluded that their husky owl was about a third larger than the rest of her species.

Giraffa / Austin Thomas

It’s particularly rare to encounter an owl in the wild who has extra poundage. Suffolk Owl Sanctuary staff members frequently work with birds suffering the effects of limited food sources. Given Plump’s size, they wondered if she was actually a wild bird at all.

Madison/ Craig Schreiner / State Journal

Logically, the team reasoned Plump could be someone’s pet. It wouldn’t be out of character for a well-intentioned human to overfeed their feathered friend. They changed course after attempts to locate an ID chip or a family missing an owl turned up dry.

Daily Mail / Bruce Adams

Another floated possibility was that Plump had escaped from captivity. They presented her with a range of food options, including bright yellow baby chicks. If she ate those, the experts would know she wasn’t raised in the wild. Plump ignored them, though.

Flickr / Rick Kimpel

They ran tests to try and piece together how this substantial gal had reached her current weight. Upon examination, none of the results pointed to any contributing explanation for her fatness; she’d simply been in the right place at the right time.

Instagram / Suffolk Owl Sanctuary

“The whole thing is quite exceptional, as most birds we see are starving,” Samkin explained. Plump had somehow beat the odds. In a world where surviving isn’t always a certainty for an owl, Plump was thriving.

1470 WFNT / Facebook / Drummond Island Animal Clinic

The place this owl called home offered a nearly endless buffet of creatures for her taking. She’d uncovered a place where crawling rodents outnumbered her by a landslide, so she did what any animal would do, and took advantage of the free food.

Instead of shaming the owl for her rotundness, scientists pointed the finger at the real culprit behind the increased food source — the climate. Unseasonably high temperatures in December 2019 led to the overpopulation of rodents, also known as an owl’s smorgasbord. 

Koryos Writes Blog

“She absolutely gorged herself and got very fat. She had a lovely time, but went too far,” Samkin said. While big fans of Plump at any weight, the owl sanctuary staff set a goal to help her shed a few pounds to regain her ability to fly.

Daily Mail

Two weeks of monitored dieting later, Plump lost between 30 and 40 grams, which made all the difference. In addition, the bird specialists increased her activity level, having her fly little laps around the rehabilitation center.

Bird Ally Blog

At the end of Plump’s Rocky-style training camp, her final obstacle was to reach the aviary’s perches. If she could do that, then she’d meet the safety requirements for an animal dependent on flight.

The San Diego Union-Tribune / John Gibbins

With the same determination that she’d gulped down all those scurrying mice, Plump made quick gains and reached the perch like a champion. The team at Suffolk Owl Sanctuary Plump was so proud of her progress, yet sad to watch her go.

Animal Planet

Plump was released, soaring off into the same wilderness where she’d been found a few weeks earlier. The rescue team hoped her healthier weight would prepare her to safely re-enter nature, even with the looming temptation of delicious rodents. 

The Roanoke Times / Edmee Rodriguez Hasler

Every few days there’s another story about a cuter than cute animal carrying extra poundage. While chubby critters are adorable, and rather snuggly, it’s important to consider their health before offering an endless supply of treats.

News Observer / Brooke Caine

When it comes to pet ownership, it can be easy to assume a “more is more” approach. Yet while it’s arguably impossible to give a dog too much love in the form of cuddles and belly rubs, you’re not doing them any favors if you don’t show restraint in other ways.

While you certainly need to keep your dogs well-fed—and we all like to indulge them in the occasional treat—you need to maintain a healthy diet for them. If you don’t balance it with exercise, they’ll quickly become unhealthy.

Some dogs can get a little heavier as they age, but at a certain point, a morbidly obese dog can become a sign of neglect on the part of his owner—and that’s a form of abuse. These dogs need a major change to their lifestyles.

VinnieRattolle / Wikimedia Commons

Just take Pearl the Jack Russell terrier. She was once an energetic and happy dog with her family in Augusta, Canada, but her abusive owners overfed her so much that they let her reach nearly 80 pounds!

For reference, the Jack Russell terrier is a relatively small breed, and adults typically only weigh between 14 and 18 pounds. Even if Pearl was half her weight, it would still be troubling.

Any dog—especially one as lively as a Jack Russell terrier—will become depressed when they’re not being taken care of. Without a proper diet and exercise plan, there’s no way they can function. Unfortunately, Pearl’s owners didn’t understand that…

BigOakFlickr / Flickr

As if letting their dog grow to over four times what her natural weight should’ve been wasn’t irresponsible enough, Pearl’s family later abandoned her in an empty parking lot. They left her utterly helpless and not suited to fend for herself.

Not soon after, local animal control officers spotted Pearl. She was so heavy that the only way rescuers could transport her to safety was by wrapping her in a large white sheet that had to be lifted by several people at once.

Initially, Pearl’s rescuers were concerned that she’d have to be put to sleep. At several times her healthy body weight, it was clear that a great deal of damage was already done—and it would be difficult to reverse.

Pearl was just four years old at the time. When she was first examined by veterinarians, they explained her heart could stop at any minute. Pearl was so obese that she couldn’t move her head or even walk!

If there was any hope of survival, Pearl was going to have to begin a serious diet and exercise regimen. Luckily, the foster group that took her in, Dog Networking Agents, knew just the thing that could help…

Trainers and veterinarians from Aiken Pet Fitness and Rehabilitation planned a weight loss program for Pearl that would help her lose one pound a week. Sure enough, she lost 16 pounds in just a few months!

This would not be an easy process, though—nor would it be able to happen overnight. Pearl’s extreme weight led to some serious medical complications, which her handlers had to navigate through.

In a case of terrible timing, Pearl was also suffering from pneumonia, so her trainers had no choice but to temporarily put her workouts on the back burner while she focused on her recovery.

It was definitely an unfortunate turn of events, but potentially life-threatening illness or not, Pearl seemed utterly determined to get herself back into fighting shape, no matter what it would take!

Using exercise balls and an underwater treadmill, Pearl eventually lost half of her body weight and got down to a trim 44 pounds! Her progress was inspiring, but that wasn’t all…

Pearl’s new figure also came with a renewed sense of adventure and outlook on life. Once she began to lose enough weight, Pearl became curious, happy, and eager to play and cuddle once more!

With the Jack Russell terrier’s diet back on track, Pearl was ultimately able to find a new forever home with a family who loved her. Ever since, they’ve been keeping her active and treating her well…

Pearl today is almost unrecognizable from the same sad, abandoned dog who was found in an empty parking lot all those months ago. Her life has transformed, and all it took was a little bit of love!

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