Workers desperately searching for Dakota the owl

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Workers and volunteers from the Oconomowoc Wildlife In Need Center have been searching for Dakota the owl since Monday, when they discovered the owl had been stolen from the shelter over the weekend.

Two teens have been charged in the case, and say they lost the owl at a friends house. Wednesday, workers had their first confirmed sighting of Dakota, and now, they have just days to try to bring him home, because after Saturday, it might be too late.

Dakota is an 11-year-old great-horned owl, and he’s been tracked to private land south of Hunter’s Lake. Staff familiar with the owl have been searching the property, and are just hoping to catch him before a predator does, or before he starves.

“He’s never been in the wild, except as a baby. We want to get food to him, since he doesn’t know how to hunt on his own,” Lisa Rowe, director of the Wildlife In Need Shelter said.

Workers have set up a feeding station with a camera, and are baiting the owl with mice.

A criminal complaint in the case says 17-year-old Dilan White and 18-year-old Matthew Kuhlemeyer have been charged with taking the owl. The complaint says the teens “wrapped it in a towel,” and took it to a friend’s house, where “the owl got away, flew into a tree, and flew off over the lake.” Officers found the teens after a friend posted a picture of the owl to Facebook.

“We saw the Facebook page, and it made our staff cry, because we know Dakota, and that expression on his Facebook page is terror,” Rowe said.

If baiting Dakota doesn’t work, workers say they’ll try setting up humane traps. Time is of the essence, because gun-deer season starts Saturday, and it won’t be safe for any more searching.