HARRISON, Ark. — A Home Depot in northern Arkansas has someone new looking out for mice at the warehouse store. A great horned owl now lives in the Harrison store's garden center, looking down on surprised customers shopping for flowers and paving stones. Employees say the bird's mother flew inside of the enclosed garden center during a January ice storm and laid eggs atop a pallet of merchandise.
Over time, the mother disappeared and two baby owls poked their heads out of the nest. One fell to its death, but the other survived, its four-foot wing span blocking out the sun as he flies around the garden center.
Since the garden center is open to the sky, the owl will leave, but always comes back, employees said.
"He's kind of our pet now," garden center supervisor John Gallagher told the Harrison Daily Times.
And the owl likely will remain there. Randy Zellers, managing editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Arkansas Wildlife magazine, said owls are classified as raptors, which are protected under strict federal regulations.
To remove the owl, the store would have to get special licenses. Zellers said there's really no reason for anyone to try and move the owl for now.
"If he isn't bothering anything, it's perfectly fine," Zellers said.
Rusty Scarborough, the education program coordinator at Delta Rivers Nature Center in Pine Bluff, said the Home Depot would be a good spot for an owl. Rodents are the predominant food source for a great horned owl and stores with garden centers stock bird seed and crop seeds _ big draws for rodents.
Although the great horned owl is a fierce predator, Scarborough said this owl probably doesn't pose a threat to anyone at the store.
"They still have a fear of humans," he said.
The Home Depot Inc., based in Atlanta, is the nation's No. 1 home improvement retailer.
Information from: Harrison Daily Times, http://www.harrisondaily.com