By Tara Mathews
HOWARD LAKE, MN Jen Gallus of Howard Lake was driving on Keats Avenue last November, following a snowstorm, when she spotted what she thought was a dirt clump on the road.
Upon approaching the object, she realized it was a deceased great horned owl.
“It was face down with its head to the side, and frozen stiff,” Gallus said. “It was so bizzare.”
Gallus called Brian Mies, the local Department of Natural Resources conservation officer, and asked him about the regulations on owning a deceased owl.
Mies informed her that it was illegal for any one person to own a raptor, but that she could donate it to an educational entity, she said.
She told her husband, Joe, about the laws and he suggested she donate it to Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted FFA program because their oldest son, Joe Jr., will be attending HLWW High School next year.
Jen called HLWW FFA Advisor James Weninger to ask if he would be interested.
“Winnie said he would love to have it because of the owl’s symbolism with FFA,” Jen said.
Jen brought the owl to taxidermist and family friend, Al Parochka.
Mies wrote up a permit, and sent it to Parochka for the taxidermy.
“The permit has to remain stapled to the platform the owl is attached to at all times,” Jen noted.
Jen and Joe asked Weninger which of the three available poses he would like, and he chose the traditional sitting pose.
Jen and Joe had the owl stuffed for about $280, according to Jen.
Just before the end of the school year, they donated the stuffed owl to HLWW FFA.
“We can use it in my natural resources class for identification purposes, as well as for the symbolism it holds in FFA,” Weninger commented.
“We were very excited to donate the owl to FFA,” Jen stated. “We thought it turned out wonderful.”
Weninger has the owl mounted above the door in one of the FFA rooms at HLWW High School.
In the United States, it is illegal to capture or a kill a raptor.
Possession of a living or deceased raptor, or any parts or pieces including feathers, without a permit from state and federal government agencies is prohibited.
Wildlife species are considered property of all citizens and are protected and managed by federal and state governments.
Public sentiment, as well as the law, does not favor the unrestricted use of wildlife for commercial purposes, thus killing, collecting, or taking into captivity most forms of wildlife is either against the law or strictly regulated, according to the US Bureau of Land Management website.
What the owl means for FFA
Each FFA emblem has a meaning that is used during ceremonies and FFA activities.
• The cross section of the ear of corn provides the foundation of the emblem, just as corn has historically served as the foundation crop of American agriculture. It is also a symbol of unity, as corn is grown in every state of the nation.
• The rising sun signifies progress and holds a promise that tomorrow will bring a new day glowing with opportunity.
• The plow signifies labor and tillage of the soil, the backbone of agriculture and the historic foundation of our country’s strength.
• The eagle is a national symbol which serves as a reminder of our freedom and ability to explore new horizons for the future of agriculture.
• The owl, long recognized for its wisdom, symbolizes the knowledge required to be successful in the industry of agriculture.
• The words “Agricultural Education” and “FFA” are emblazoned in the center to signify the combination of learning and leadership necessary for progressive agriculture.
The owl is the symbol for the advisor in FFA chapters. Its symbolism is used during opening ceremonies.
“The owl is a time-honored emblem of knowledge and wisdom. Being older than the rest of you, I am asked to advise you from time to time, as the need arises. I hope that my advice will always be based on true knowledge and ripened with wisdom,” FFA Chapter Advisors recite.