TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A wayward burrowing owl hopped onboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Florida and unintentionally took a two-week vacation, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said.
FWC said passengers onboard the Symphony of the Seas, the world’s second-largest cruise ship, were able to see the owl perched on exit signs, peeking through planters and resting along railings.
The cruise ship made stops in Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and Boca Chita Key.
Once the ship was back in Florida, the ship’s environmental officer welcomed an FWC biologist onboard after receiving a call from Wildlife Rescue of Dade County.
The biologist, Ricardo Zambrano, had a one-hour window of time between the passengers disembarking and new passengers coming aboard for their week-long vacation to Mexico, FWC said.
Officials said some of the crew members helped Zambrano place mist nets around the owl’s perch of choice, the exit signs by a door.
After two unsuccessful attempts, the owl was sitting on a balcony of a tenth-story cabin. FWC said crew members below began to make noise to distract the owl as Zambrano snuck up and safely netted the owl from the railing.
FWC officials said the cute little stowaway was safely assisted with the disembarkation process. “He had nothing to claim in customs,” officials said.
The owl seemed to be in good health after two weeks at sea but officials said it was taken to the South Florida Wildlife Center as a precautionary measure.
FWC said burrowing owls are listed as “threatened” in Florida. They are one of the smallest owls in the state, reaching up to nine inches tall.
If you encounter a burrowing owl somewhere it shouldn’t be, the owl can typically find its way out on its own if doors are left open for them to exit.
Officials said to not try to capture or handle the owl yourself, if assistance is needed, contact FWC.