A tawny owl “will live to fly another night” after it had to be cut from the net in a garden pond.
The owl has recovered after it became entangled in Sydenham, southeast London, prompting a call for homeowners to look for wildlife-friendly alternatives, replacing pond nets with solid metal mesh.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) shared images of the bird being pulled from the water by animal rescue officer Mat Hawkins on Tuesday.
“I suspect he swooped in to catch a mouse that was running near the pond the night before, but got his leg in the net and ended up in the water where he struggled and got further entangled,” Hawkins said.
“I put on my boots and waded into the pond, but I was worried he was going to drown in the struggle, so I used my net to pull him out from under it, give him some support and keep him from falling below the surface.
“He had obviously been struggling to escape for some time, as the poor thing was completely exhausted and barely moving as I prepared to free him from the net.”
Mr Hawkins took the owl to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital, where experts confirmed that he had not sustained any injuries.
He returned to the garden Thursday night to release the owl back into the wild.
“Hopefully this impressive owl will live to fly another night, and I hope it stays away from any other nets in the future,” added Hawkins.
“It’s great that these owners checked their pond nets and were able to call us for help in time, otherwise this owl could have become even more exhausted, dehydrated and unwell.
“I’d like to remind gardeners that all types of garden screens, including pond screens and fruit screens, can be a real hazard to wildlife and the RSPCA recommends replacing them with solid wire mesh.”
The RSPCA also recommended making sure ponds have steps, ramps or sloping edges to allow wildlife such as hedgehogs to escape.
He also encouraged those who find an animal in the pond netting not to try to free it themselves, as they may have serious injuries requiring veterinary treatment.