COLUMBIA — Chester the blind barred owl is dead.
She was found around noon Sunday by a resident who saw her caught in a tree near Hilltop Drive, across the street from Rockhill Park, where she was last seen a week before.
Chester was a popular member of the Raptor Rehabilitation Project at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. The project helps injured birds of prey return to the wild, but because of her blindness, Chester became a permanent resident.
She was a frequent visitor to elementary schools and citywide festivals.
Initially on Sunday, rehabilitation project rescuers were hopeful that Chester was still alive because she was being mobbed by crows when they arrived. That behavior is a defense mechanism used by smaller birds when they are threatened by larger predators.
The tree where Chester was caught was too narrow to climb but tall enough to keep her out of reach of rescuers. Eventually, the tree had to be cut down in order to recover Chester. She was dead when they retrieved her body.
Chester’s remains will be cremated and scattered over the grounds of the Raptor Rehabilitation Project during a private memorial service.
Christina Bure, a graduate student at the MU Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, worked closely with Chester. “We want to thank everyone who called, made reports and even went out to help look for Chester," she said. "Your help and concern was greatly appreciated. Chester will be deeply missed by all of us here at the rehab project.”