Simon, a tiny, partly blind and flightless owl who is a favorite of New Jersey schoolchildren, has been returned to the center that nurses injured birds of prey.
He was returned Saturday morning in good condition after being stolen either late Wednesday or Thursday. The owl thief could face both state and federal charges, but --as promised --The Raptor Trust founder and director Len Soucey did not press charges.
The center typically cares for birds with an eye on returning them to the wild. But Simon and about 60 other permanent residents have remained on the site full time, too sick or hurt to release.
Center officials said the thief cut open an outdoor cage to take Simon. Had an intruder entered the cage of a bigger, more aggressive bird, "they probably would have lost an eye," Soucey said.
Simon is believed to be only 7 or 8, about middle aged. The Eastern Screech Owl is New Jersey's most common type of owl, with bright yellow eyes and generally measuring 6 to 10 inches long.