Do not disturb: Screech owls are federally protected

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Wildlife officials are asking that the public not disturb a screech owl that has nested in a tree in Colt State Park.

The small owl has perched itself in one of the trees' cavities, a common habitat of the raptor, said Kristin Fletcher, executive director at Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island.

"You should never approach them," Ms. Fletcher said. "If an animal is in trouble, contact us immediately and we'll assess the situation and render help if necessary."

The bird was spotted about a week ago by a photographer, who allegedly reported that the owl had been poked in the eye by a few kids. Ms. Fletcher inspected the bird, and discovered that it wasn't injured.

"It's against both state and federal law to harass a federally protected bird," Ms. Fletcher said. "Also, it will make it worse if it's harassed by people approaching it constantly. It's very stressful for any kind of wild animal or bird."

Anyone caught trying to capture the owl, or harass it could face prosecution and fines, Ms. Fletcher said.

Screech owls are nocturnal, and hunt mostly small rodents and songbirds.

To report injured wildlife, call 293-5505.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.