The owl that a Florida tourist hit with her SUV and unwittingly transported for about 100 miles in the grill of her vehicle appears to have survived the ordeal none the worse for the ride, although vets said today they are treating the anemic bird with antibiotics out of caution.
Sonji Coney Williams made the startling discovery last week when she reached her destination in South Florida. Staring at her from beneath the hood of her SUV were the two large golden eyes of a live owl, lodged in the car's grill.
Williams was reportedly headed south on the Florida Turnpike Feb. 7 when the owl collided with her vehicle near Yeehaw Junction in Central Florida. Williams was bound for Plantation, Fla., to visit her son. While going about 60 mph, she assumed the bird she had hit died on impact.
"He never moved, and so I said, 'Oh, my God, I hit a bird.' And I felt so bad," Williams told The Associated Press. "But it was very dark, and we didn't pull over."
The next afternoon, while running errands, Williams discovered the live owl trapped in her car.
A family had pulled in front of her parking space and flagged her down, calling attention to something caught in the grill of her vehicle.
"'Yes, what is it?' And they said, 'It's an owl.' And I said, 'An owl?'" Williams told the AP.
Williams then discovered the bird she had hit the night before still alive and blinking from the small space between the grate and hood of her SUV. It was a great horned owl, a breed common to Central Florida. It can grow to 2-feet tall.
Astonished to find the creature wedged in her truck for nearly 24 hours, Williams told ABC affiliate WFTV, "I'm about to faint. I've never experienced anything like this before in my life."
After encountering the trapped owl, Williams called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Agency officials managed to extricate the owl, which seemed to be in good health, an agency representative told ABC News today. They eventually moved the owl to the South Florida Wildlife Center in Ft. Lauderdale, which said today it has run the owl though a battery of tests and hopes to return it to its Central Florida natural habitat after its appetite is restored and it gets a clean bill of health.
It's unclear whether the bird is male or female.
As for driver Williams, she found it difficult to look at the finally freed owl, even shedding tears over the animal's predicament.