Snowy Owl Hit By Bus in D.C., Taken to National Zoo

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A snowy owl sits on the awning of an office building in downtown Washington, D.C. on Jan. 22, 2014. Snowy Owls, reportedly found in the northern circumpolar region, are a rare sighting in the D.C. area. (Photo credit: EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

A snowy owl sits on the awning of an office building in downtown Washington, D.C. on Jan. 22, 2014. Snowy Owls, reportedly found in the northern circumpolar region, are a rare sighting in the D.C. area. (Photo credit: EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A rare snowy owl recently searching for food in the nation’s capital and perching at The Washington Post was apparently hit by a bus and was treated Thursday at the National Zoo.

District of Columbia police found the injured bird downtown, and it was brought to the zoo shortly after 2 a.m., said zoo spokeswoman Annalisa Meyer. A veterinarian was called in to treat the owl for an apparent head injury and administered pain medication.

It was later transferred to a city wildlife rehabilitation facility for additional treatment. A biologist at City Wildlife planned to give the owl X-rays and release it back into the wild. Veterinarians believe it’s a female.

Snowy owls aren’t usually seen in the region, but scientists say they have been moving far south of their Arctic habitats searching for food due to a population spike or a severe shortage of lemmings, their primary food. Snowy owls have been spotted along the East Coast in recent weeks as far south as Florida.

Related: Record Number of Snowy Owls Migrating to D.C. Region

It’s the biggest “irruption” of the Arctic owls that any bird expert remembers, said Ellen Paul, executive director of the Washington-based Ornithological Council.

“This is truly extraordinary,” she said. “They’re being seen all over the place, all over the East Coast.”

Cities and confused, lost owls don’t mix well, though, she said. The snowy owls come from places where there are no vehicles, no roads, no cats and no rat poison, which can all cause harm. It’s not a bird species that normally migrates, so snowy owls don’t know where they are or where to find food.

“Part of it is they are just hungry and tired, and they’re settling wherever they end up,” Paul said.

Humans spotted the owl with its white feathers, yellow eyes and rotating head this week and got busy snapping pictures and making the bird famous on social media. But when Paul heard the owl made its home downtown, she said she didn’t want to go see it because she knew it could be in danger.

“I was pretty sure this bird was going to end up being hit by a vehicle because what happens when they focus on prey, they literally lock on it like a heat seeking missile,” she said. “And they’re going to go diving directly onto it and not even notice what else is around them.”

(TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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