Hospital guest is a real hoot

John Hacker

A hospital patient who eats mice has become a big hit with staff and other patients.

Hooter the barred owl has been living in the courtyard of McCune-Brooks Regional Hospital in Carthage since staffer Steve Schneickert found the owl injured by the side of the road about two weeks ago.

Groundskeeper Don Kittrell built a perch and a box for the owl in the hospital courtyard while it recovers.

Kittrell said the owl took off on its longest flight yet Monday night, landing first on the roof of the hospital, then taking off into the fields.

"She's able to fly, but her landings suck," Kittrell said with a laugh. "I'm going to call the Department of Conservation and let them take her to a raptor rehabilitation center. Hopefully they can get her to the point where she can be released, but if not, maybe she can help educate children and others about owls and other raptors.”

Kittrell said now that he's observed the owl for a couple of weeks, he believes it's either a young bird or one that lived in captivity for a time.

He said he lets the owl hunt and eat mice he catches in fields around his home and the hospital.

Kittrell said when Schneickert found the owl, it was just sitting on the side of the road. It had frost on its back and did not attempt to fly off when it was covered with a towel.

Technicians at the hospital x-rayed the bird, and Kittrell consulted with a veterinarian, but they could find no sign of injury.

Carthage Press