Special to The Republican
COLRAIN — Richard Briere of Colrain says he feels a deep sense of reverence after helping to save the life of a barred owl that was hit by a car and left for dead along Route 112 Wednesday.
Briere had just visited the pet groomer with his dog Baxter and was headed home on the state road north of Route 2 when he saw what looked like a large clump of feathers in the road.
“It was too big for any small bird,” he said. “I stopped. It was an owl. I thought it was dead. But when I picked it up it was still warm. Its heart was beating. Its eyes were closed and there was blood running down its face.”
Briere said several motorists stopped, including a woman who started “screaming hysterically.”
“We sent her on her way,” said Briere. “And another motorist knew what to do. He stopped traffic in both directions, which gave us a little space.”
Briere said he happened to have a big cardboard box in his vehicle that was partially filled with cracked corn. “I had just picked up the corn to feed the turkeys on my hill,” he said. “So I laid the owl in the box, closed the top, and called my brother.”
Breire’s brother Gary made a series of phone calls to find a veterinarian who would take the bird. He soon got back to Briere, telling him Dr. Robert Schmidt at the South Deerfield Veterinary Clinic would be waiting for him.
“By the time I got to South Deerfield, I thought I’d have a dead owl,” said Briere. “But I opened the top of the box, and there were two eyes looking up at me.”
Dr. Schmidt took immediate action and wrapped the shocked bird in a blanket.
“Then the owl spun his head around and looked into my eyes,” said Briere. “It was as if he was looking straight into my soul.”
An exam revealed the bird had suffered a concussion, but that its wings and talons were intact. The doctor performed first aid and cleaned the bird’s injuries. When the patient, now named “Dwight D. Owl,” was deemed stable, he was transferred to a wildlife rehabilitator in Bernardston.
“She took really good care of Dwight,” said Briere of the Bernardston woman, who prefers to remain anonymous.
“On Friday, Dwight decided that he’d had enough. He made it abundantly clear. She opened the door, and he flew into her barn.”
The owl stayed in the barn for quite a while, regaining its bearings, said Dwight, before “heading into the sky and flying straight back over the mountain toward the area where I originally found him.”
Briere said he wonders who would possibly hit such a magnificent creature and keep driving.
“Route 112 between Route 2 and Vermont is loaded with people from Connecticut and New York driving way too fast,” he said. “Who knows. I didn’t see it. It just seems very cruel.”
Briere said the story, which he originally posted on Facebook, has been shared all over social media. He’s received many emails, including one from a Native American man who told Briere his fateful interlude with the barred owl was deeply significant.
“Someone said I was a hero,” said Briere. “But I’m no hero. Anyone with a heart would have done the same thing.”
Briere said the rescue would not have been possible without his brother Gary, without Dr. Schmidt, without the wildlife rehabilitator, and without the anonymous motorist who kept a cool head and stopped traffic on Route 112.
“It was the most moving experience of my life to pick up that owl and hear his heart still beating,” said Briere. “I was just the ambulance.”