Owl in recovery after being purchased illegally at Payson gas station
PAYSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Western screech owl purchased by a man who was reportedly under the influence of methamphetamine at a Payson gas station is recovering.
Liberty Wildlife in Phoenix is now caring for the owl after it was temporarily taken in by local Payson wildlife rescue Arizona Wild Rescue. Liberty said that the owl appears better than when it first arrived at their clinic and is being rehabilitated. The rescue said it’s unsure if the owl will be able to return to the wild, and that if it isn’t, it may be a candidate for a future education or ambassador animal. Liberty expects an announcement on its health later today.
The owl’s main injury is head trauma from possibly being hit by a car. It’s a common injury since many perch on a tree or telephone pole, swoop down to snatch prey, and are hit by a car on their descent. Liberty Wildlife says they believe that the person who reportedly sold the owl at the gas station took advantage of the owl’s injury.
On Wednesday, a Payson Police officer stopped a car with improperly displayed temporary tags near Bonita Street in Payson around 12:45 a.m. The officer noticed that the driver, identified as 44-year-old Mason Stapley, had a small gray owl on the center console of the vehicle and that his drivers license was suspended. Stapley was tested and arrested for DUI at the scene.
Payson officers found methamphetamine, marijuana, open beer containers, and paraphernalia to smoke marijuana and methamphetamine inside the car, besides the owl. Stapley told officers he’d bought the bird at a nearby gas station for $100 from a couple who’d found it in the road outside Payson. He was arrested on various charges including aggravated, DUI, possession of meth, and possession of wildlife. He was also cited for possession of open container, wildlife animal, and displaying an altered license plate.
Arizona Game and Fish Department is reminding everyone that they cannot sell native wildlife, including raptors such as owls, under Arizona state law. It is also illegal under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
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