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Baraboo zoo owls missing after habitat locks cut during overnight break-in; otters safely returned

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Posted at 10:25 PM, Jun 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 18:46:15-04

BARABOO, Wis. — The otters are back safe, but a zoo in Baraboo is still looking for a pair of great-horned owls.

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The otters back in the Baraboo Zoo.

The owls disappeared from the Ochsner Park Zoo after an overnight break-in, police said Tuesday.

The Baraboo Police Department says someone cut the locks on their habitats, as well as other zoo habitats.

When Ochsner Park Zoo Specialist Ellen Gallagher arrived at the zoo Tuesday morning, she knew something was really wrong. The doors to the otter and owl exhibits were flung open.

Two otters, named Mitch and Mo, as well as two great horned owls, named Linda and Jerry, escaped.

Thankfully, two kayakers spotted the otters in a nearby park on Tuesday afternoon.

The otters have since been safely reunited with zoo staff members.

"As soon as we came with snacks, they perked right up and recognized our voices," Gallagher said. "And we got them into crates voluntarily."

Gallagher says so far the otters are happy and healthy—and they are very friendly.

"Our boys probably swam right up to them out of curiosity," Gallagher said.

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Photos of the two missing owls.

Police say there's evidence whoever did this also tried to let the monkeys and bears escape.

"Whoever had done this had cut padlocks, jumped fences, broke all the safety procedures we use," Gallagher said.

Ochsner Park Zoo is a free community zoo in Baraboo. It has four Mexican gray wolves, which Gallager says she is so thankful were not set loose.

In fact, she says setting any animal free from a zoo can be really harmful to the animal.

The zoo says no dangerous animals were released. The zoo was closed Tuesday following the incident.

"Most captive animals were born here or compromised physically and need to spend their lives in captivity," Gallagher said. "My biggest fear yesterday is that the otters would run into the street. You know, the same fears you would have if your cat or dog goes missing."

If you see the great horned owls, do not approach. Instead, call the Baraboo City Police Department at 608-355-2720.

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