Appeal for safe return of barn owl stolen from garden aviary
A man who believes thieves have stolen a barn owl taken from an aviary in his garden has appealed for its return.
Jebz Hurden has been rehoming unwanted birds of prey in his Haydon garden for as long as he can remember.
On New Year's Eve the 38-year-old was shocked to find one of his two barn owls had gone missing, leaving its lifelong companion pining.
Mr Hurden, who is an award-winning hedge layer, said: "I am petrified whoever has stolen it will just let it go. It was born and bred in captivity and has absolutely no chance of surviving in the wild.
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"I hate to keep birds in cages, I honestly do, but there really is no other option. I take them on when whoever has owned them before me finds they can no longer take care of them, because I want to make sure they have the happiest and healthiest lives they can."
Mr Hurden, who also keeps a Harris hawk, snowy owl and numerous chickens, said the disappearance of Cassie had left her lifelong companion and fellow barn owl Lil devastated.
He added: "She has seemed really down and confused since Cassie was stolen. I have told the police about what has happened but still cannot understand why someone would do it. She is not a friendly bird and could be quite vicious so whoever took her may have scratches on them."
The Barn Owl Trust – a charity dedicated to the conservation of the breed – also warned that birds bred in captivity should not be released into the wild.
A spokesman for the charity said many people bought birds on impulse without thinking through the long-term commitment.
Young bred from captive owls do not usually survive in the wild. Such releases are illegal and a fine of up to £5,000 per bird can be imposed or a jail term of up to six months.
A spokesman said: "Whilst the wild barn owl population in Britain has decreased by an estimated 70 per cent since 1932, the captive population has increased dramatically.
"The captive population in Britain has been estimated at 24,000 – three times the size of the wild population – some estimates are even higher."
Anyone with information about the theft should call the police on 101.