Photo via Riverside Animal Control.
Photo via Riverside Animal Control.

The “great owl capture” was over Thursday as a weird bird that took over a Vons grocery store was chased from the alcohol aisle back into the wild.

“It particularly enjoyed the fresh produce area and the alcohol aisle,” said animal services Lt. James Huffman. “The last thing we wanted to do was swing our nets around with all that expensive booze on the shelves.”

The owl dropped in on shoppers and employees at the supermarket, flapping around aisles and making himself at home until animal control officials captured and then released him back outdoors.

“It turned into a rather big event,” saidHuffman. “Everyone was watching us try to capture it. Pretty much the entire store was fixated on the great owl capture.”

It took animal services nearly two hours to snare the creature.

Huffman said shoppers got into the owl-spotting game, calling out, “It went that way!” whenever the feathered supermarket patron made a move.

“I was able to get him in my net once, but my net got snagged as I tried to complete the capture and the owl escaped,” Huffman recalled.

They eventually caught the owl and took him outside, where he was set free.

“It was last seen near the delivery dock,”  Huffman said. “We think it was taking a bit of a rest to regain its bearings before heading out on its next adventure.”

The burrowing owl flew into the Vons store in Riverside at 3545 Central Ave., in the Riverside Plaza, Tuesday night and was left alone by workers, who assumed that he’d find his own way out by morning.

When he didn’t, the Riverside County Department of Animal Services was called, and two officers arrived at the location about 10 a.m. Wednesday, said agency spokesman John Welsh.

With the help of local wildlife rescue volunteer Karolyn Verville, the two officers and Verville set about attempting to corral the owl, Welsh said.

Burrowing owls are active day and night and make their nests underground.

— Staff and wire reports


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