Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

JR, the great horned owl, seen at McGough Park in Pinellas

LARGO — Since JR the great-horned owl disappeared about a week ago, there have been a handful of sightings.

Most of them haven't been JR at all.

This week, someone called to say they saw an owl on top of the Kane's Furniture store at Drew Street and U.S. 19.

That one was plastic.

And, on Thursday, at 2 a.m., someone from Seffner called to say she saw a great horned owl out there.

But on Friday, for the first time since last week, JR was seen near his home at George C. McGough Nature Park.

About 5:30 a.m., a volunteer glimpsed him in an oak tree at the park. Five hours later, Joel Quattlebaum, the park's nature center specialist, saw JR while taking a group of students on a park tour. He rounded up the kids and returned to the site, which is around 150 yards from where JR used to live in a 12- by 10-foot enclosure.

For several hours Friday, Quattlebaum kept watch with his binoculars. A few feet away was lunch for JR: two thawed, freeze-dried mice on a perch used for park programs.

JR's silhouette could be seen about 70 feet up on a swaying pine tree branch. Quattlebaum knew it was JR by the way he was picking at the leather straps on his ankles. Quattlebaum planned to grab JR with his bare hands if JR swooped down for a meal.

"It's worth getting scratched a couple of times if you can save a bird," said Quattlebaum, who has worked with JR for about seven years.

But JR, who generally eats almost every day, apparently wasn't hungry.

A few hours later, Gabe Vargo, a volunteer at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, dropped off a trap containing a live mouse.

Vargo thought it might work.

"It depends how hungry the bird is and how inquisitive it is," Vargo said.

For more than a decade, JR, who is about 14, has been a fixture at the park on the Intracoastal Waterway north of Walsingham Road. He's one of the main attractions there, along with a snake named Houdini and a slew of turtles that call the park home.

Park officials learned of JR's disappearance a week ago. His cage was empty and someone had cut a hole in it. They think someone broke into the park after it closed at sunset Jan. 28 and before a volunteer reopened the facility at sunrise the next day.

JR was seen a couple of times Jan. 29, but there hadn't been a concrete sighting since then until Friday.

Officials were worried about JR's welfare because the owl was raised in captivity and never learned to hunt or live on his own.

Quattlebaum and a couple of volunteers planned to camp at the park overnight, said parks superintendent Greg Brown, who was reassured that JR was sighted so close to home.

"It's nice to know he was probably at the park the whole time," Brown said. "It's good he knows where his home is at least."

But on Friday evening, JR flew away without taking the bait.

Times staff writer John Pendygraft contributed to this report. Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155.

JR, the great horned owl, seen at McGough Park in Pinellas 02/04/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 4, 2011 10:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Chamber of Commerce announces small business winners


    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce selected the winners of the 2017 Small Business of the Year Awards at a ceremony Wednesday night at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. More than 600 attendees celebrated the accomplishments of Tampa Bay's small business community.

    Vincent Cassidy, president and CEO of Majesty Title Services, was named Outstanding Small Business Leader of the Year by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

  2. UF president Kent Fuchs: 'Charlottesville changed everything' (w/video)


    GAINESVILLE — Wednesday evening, hazy rumors of an impending Neo-Nazi march reached some wary protesters. A few quickly rallied to denounce the marchers in downtown Gainesville, only to find plazas empty but for police.

    University of Florida President W. Kent Fuchs talks with reporters Wednesday about white nationalist Richard Spencer's planned speech on Thursday. He said of Spencer: "In a small way, he is causing us to redouble our focus on supporting actions that are the opposite of what he wants." [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  3. Kenya vote chief says 'difficult' to have credible election


    NAIROBI, Kenya — It is "difficult to guarantee a free, fair and credible election" in Kenya's fresh presidential vote just eight days away despite "full technical preparedness," the head of the election commission said Wednesday as another wave of uncertainty swept through East Africa's largest economy.

  4. International array of artists chosen as finalists for Pier project

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — A diverse group of six artists will compete for a chance to install their work at the city's multimillion-dollar Pier District, expected to open in early 2019.

  5. Former Jabil executive's fate in hands of murder trial jury


    LARGO — For a second time, Patrick Evans' future is in the hands of a jury.

    Patrick Evans talks with Allison Miller, one of his three public defenders, before jury selection this w eek. Evans, a former Jabil executive charged with killing his estranged wife and her friend almost 10 years ago, is back in court for a second trial after his original death sentence conviction was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times