‘Owl Capone’ — Roan Mountain aviary receives first resident

Published 8:46 am Thursday, June 16, 2016

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips Roan Mountain State Park manager J.R. Tinch poses with his new friend, "Owl Capone", a two-year-old injured barred owl that is the first resident of the park's new birds of prey aviary.

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips
Roan Mountain State Park manager J.R. Tinch poses with his new friend, “Owl Capone”, a two-year-old injured barred owl that is the first resident of the park’s new birds of prey aviary.

He had to come in all the way from West Tennessee, but he is finally here.
“Owl Capone” is the first bird to call Roan Mountain State Park’s new aviary home.
The two-year-old barred owl’s journey to Roan Mountain started with a crash. In West Tennessee, a car struck the young owl, and a passerby found the scared avian struggling on the side of the road. He was taken to the Reelfoot State Park’s rehab facility, where he stayed until Roan Mountain was ready to receive him. Owl Capone has been at the Roan Mountain aviary for less than two weeks.
“We just happen to be looking for a barred owl, and we had just got our permits here,” said Roan Mountain State Park manager J.R. Tinch. “So he is our first resident. He made the trip all the way across Tennessee, and he will live out his days here now.”
Due to his encounter with the car, Owl Capone’s left wing is significantly shorter than his right, making it impossible for him to fly. Without the ability to fly and with the inability to survive in the wild, the barred owl was deemed non-releasable.
The bird’s new home is a 12-foot-by-12-foot enclosure designed to house injured birds of prey. The aviary is open to the public and is designed in a way that curious visitors can look at the birds without disturbing them. Throughout the day, park rangers feed the owl and keep his new habitat clean. To help “Owl Capone” get used to being around people, Tinch said it is important for rangers to be near and talk to the owl a lot.
To get the aviary at the park has been a long process. Over the winter, workers actually built the aviary inside the maintenance shed from prefabricated pieces. Money to buy the aviary was raised entirely through donations, with $1000 being donated by the Friends of Roan Mountain. Along with building the enclosure, the park had to also go through a lot paperwork in order to get the permits needed. For Tinch, who been has a proponent for an aviary since the beginning, the arrival of the barred owl brought much excitement.
“Finally getting him here in May was like the finish line of a two-year project,” Tinch said. “This is one of the things that I wanted since I came to Roan Mountain. This has been one of my big projects since I have come here and to finally see it happen is pretty awesome.”
Before becoming the park manager in 2015, Tinch had been at RMSP for two years. However, Tinch’s experience with handling birds of prey goes back farther than two years. Seven years ago, while working at Tims Ford State Park in Franklin County, Tenn., Tinch began working with birds.
“I worked around the state, so I have worked with everything from owls to bald eagles,” Tinch said. “There was one summer where I had four bald eagles from Reelfoot Lake, when the Mississippi flooded.”
Tinch said that the park hopes to get another barred owl and a red-tailed hawk. The aviary is smaller and designed to only keep up to two species of birds at a time.
For those interested, the park offers programs about the new barred owl and birds of prey in general. Visit Roan Mountain State Park’s facebook page for information about upcoming programs.

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