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101 Things To Do: International Owl Center in Houston, Minnesota

Staff member Jo Severson gives a live owl program with Ruby, a great horned owl, at the International Owl Center in Houston, Minn., on August 31, 2018. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Owls ride to the International Owl Center each day in the Owlmobile. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
The temporary home of The International Owl Center in Houston, Minn. The center plans to build a new facility in the future. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Editor's note: This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. Each week through December 2020, we will select one place or activity around the region to highlight. The stories are compiled at www.rivertown101.com. 

Housed in a simple brick building in downtown Houston, Minn., the International Owl Center is filled with information about and enthusiasm for owls.

Executive Director Karla Bloem wears a shirt that says, "Making the world a better place for owls."

She works hard to support that mission.

"Humans are the biggest problem for owls," Bloem said. "Not necessarily directly killing them, but inadvertently killing them."

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She explained that when humans use poisons for rodent control, the rodents eat the poisons, then the owls eat the rodents.

"The majority of dead owls we find have rodenticide in their bodies. We are poisoning our natural rodent control. It would be better to use traps instead of poison." she said.

One wall of the Owl Center has suggestions for visitors on ways they can help owls.

"We had 14,000 visitors last year," Bloem said. "If each one of them makes one change, it will make a big difference for owls. Most people want to help owls."

In addition to educational displays, the Owl Center features four live owls that visitors can see up close. Owl Center staff are on hand to answer questions, and they schedule live owl programs at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30p.m. daily.

The owls on display have been raised in captivity. Bloem said in the past they used owls that had been injured and could not survive in the wild.

"Now we believe the best practice is human-reared owls," she said. "If they are wild, they are never as comfortable around people. If they are raised in captivity, this is all they have ever known."

The owls are kept in the country and have access to an aviary so they can fly. On days that the owl center is open, the four line owls are driven to town in the brightly painted Owlmobile.

The International Owl Center has plans for the future which include a building specifically designed to house the owls in more realistic habitats and allow the staff to do more extensive research on owl behavior, vocalizations, and other topics.

The Owl Center sponsors the International Festival of Owls the first weekend of March each year. "We are the only all-owl center in North America," Bloem said.

If you go...

Name: The International Owl Center

Address: 126 East Cedar St., Houston, Minn.

Phone: 507-896-OWLS (6957)

Website: https://www.internationalowlcenter.org/visit.html

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday; closed Tuesday through Thursday

Admission: Adults $7, children 4-17 $4, children 3 and under free

Steve Gardiner

Steve Gardiner taught high school English and journalism for 38 years in Montana and Wyoming.  He started working at the Republican Eagle in May 2018.  He focuses on features and outdoor stories.  

(651) 301-7872
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