Saying Goodbye to Gus the Barred Owl

On December 7, the Wildlife Center staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Gus the Barred Owl, due to chronic arthritis associated with her advanced age. Gus was 28 ½ years old.

Gus came to the Wildlife Center in April 1994 as a very young owlet. Shortly after hatching, she was found alone and on the ground near Mechanicsville, Virginia, presumably after falling from her nest tree. Her rescuers brought her to their home, intending to keep the young owl as a pet; like many people, they were unaware that it is illegal to keep wild animals in captivity. After several weeks, Gus was discovered by neighbors and removed from the household by the local police, who arranged for transport to the Wildlife Center. The Center staff determined that the constant attention Gus had received from her initial rescuers had left her imprinted on humans, which left her unsuitable for release back into the wild.

It’s hard to measure just how large of an impact Gus had during her 28+ year career at the Center. In the past 15 years alone, Gus met more than 93,000 people and appeared in more than 1,500 programs. She traveled to elementary schools, libraries, state fairs, private receptions, and television studios. Through virtual programs, Gus connected with students all over the world; she was able to “meet” and inspire students online and even served as the subject matter for many class projects (some of which were even mailed to Gus to see!). She was a quiet and steady education partner for dozens of outreach and education staff over nearly three decades. Owls always seem to be an audience favorite, and that was especially true of Gus.


At the time of her passing, Gus was the most senior member of the education ambassador team – and the second-longest tenured “employee” at the Center, second only to President Ed Clark. For the past six months, the outreach staff have been keeping a close eye on Gus’s mobility and appetite, looking for any signs of discomfort. At a scheduled mid-year check-up with the veterinary team, radiographs confirmed that Gus’s arthritis in her knee was continuing to advance; the veterinary and outreach staff decided that the most humane decision was to euthanize Gus before her condition and quality of life worsened.

Goodbye, Gus, and rest in peace. Thank you for your years of carrying on the Wildlife Center’s mission.