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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stowaway Finds Home on Oasis of the Seas

If the stowaway was hoping to go undetected when making her way onto the largest cruise ship in the world, her cover was soon blown.

Florida burrowing owls, a species protected by federal law, are known to dig homes in some of the most inconvenient spots -- football fields, baseball diamonds, manicured lawns. But just hours before the Oasis of the Seas was due to set sail from Port Everglades on Saturday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission was called to remove a burrowing owl from the ship's artificial turf golf course.

"They're very territorial, and she was making it clear `this is my territory,' " said Lt. Dave Bingham, who was one of two wildlife officers trying to catch the bird they named "Oasis the Owl." Bingham and Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Howard Rudolph worked for nearly 30 minutes to capture her as she flew from the golf course to surrounding trees aboard the ship and rafters.

"The ship actually has a lot of greenery and a central park area, so it's not uncommon to see butterflies or birds," said Royal Caribbean spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez. But it's the first time an owl has tried moving in.

The owl flew on to a ship whose amenities include 20 different restaurants -- not too shabby for a bird known mainly to feast onlarge insects and small rodents.

Bingham was finally able to capture the owl with a butterfly net, and drove her to the west side of Broward county where she was released.