“Insul-Owl” Saved due to Compassion of Florida Spray Foam Applicator

A screech owl, accidentally sprayed with foam, got emergency care and was nursed back to health.
By Grace Stainback

FT. PIERCE, FL – March 8, 2012 – When a rogue screech owl took up roost on a construction site, it certainly didn’t expect to be encased in a sticky, unforgiving wall of spray foam insulation. In fact, direct contact between animals and the chemicals that make up spray foam is most often deadly. But Leed Insulation’s David Turner took immediate action in a humanitarian move that ultimately saved the creature’s life.

Turner and the “Insul-Owl” met late last year. The Leed Insulation crew was working on a residential home, a new construction near Merritt Island on Florida’s east coast. During the first day of work, there weren’t any sightings of the owl or evidence of a nest, Turner said. The following day, the team sprayed the attic area of the home. “It was close to the end of the day, and I was just getting a little more done. I was up in the attic walking along the trusses, spraying the eaves. I didn’t even see it to be honest, until the next thing I knew there was a creature flying out of the eave and I spotted it out of the corner of my eye,” he recalled. The bird flew down and tried to make a quick escape, but all of the windows and openings were sealed off. Finally it resorted to fettering about in the master bathroom. “At first I didn’t know what it was,” Turner said. “But when I climbed down from the attic and approached it I could see that it was a screech owl. Just a tiny little thing, maybe 10 inches high.

”Turner saw that the bird had been sprayed, with foam concealing its head and part of its face. Clearly in shock, it didn’t try to fly away. At this point, everyone gathered at the worksite was packing up and getting ready to leave. “I felt like I couldn’t just leave it there,” Turner said. So what’s a guy to do? He called his girlfriend. “I asked her what to do,” Turner said. “She’s an animal lover, with all sorts of pets. So she started making phone calls, trying to figure out where to take an injured wild animal.” In the meantime, Turner and his partner fashioned a makeshift cage out of a 3 ft x 4 ft cardboard box. Other than minor clicking, the owl was easily scooped up and placed inside the box. Turner’s girlfriend then called to tell him that after a string of phone calls, she had found Creature Safe Place, a nonprofit wild animal rehabilitation center in Ft. Pierce. “As soon as I started to drive, it started pouring down rain,” recalled Turner. “At that point I was extremely happy that I had taken the bird. What with his damaged eye, and the rain, and the general chaos of the situation he would have been a goner.”

”Winnie Burns, Director of Creature Safe Place, was there to greet the injured owl. “This young man saved that owl’s life,” she said. “The chemical toxicity alone would have killed it. It was on its eyes, its beak.. it looked like a mummy.” Burns and her team spent two days painstakingly removing the foam. They used vegetable oil to lubricate, and with small picks pulled it off piece by piece. Despite their careful handling, the bird still lost a lot of feathers. While its feathers grew back, Burns held it in a flying cage at Creature Safe Place. After three weeks, the screech owl was released, once again a free and healthy bird. “The most precious gift you can give another life is your time,” Burns said. She has been the director of Creature Safe Place since its establishment 19 years ago. The center is federally permitted to handle animals, and takes in everything from bats to deer to screech owls covered with spray foam. “She had a really great thing going on at that center,” Turner said. “We’ve actually brought another bird to her since then.” Wait. Another spray foam accident? “No, this was one I didn’t even spray. Close to the apartment where we live, my girlfriend discovered a hawk injured in a parking lot,” Turner said. “So we scooped it up and took it over there.” Whether by fate or random coincidence, the local animals know who to call upon in times of need.

About Leed Insulation:
Leed Insulation is a full-service insulation contractor serving the east coast of Florida. In addition, the contractor has a working relationship with Habitat for Humanity and donates work to the charitable foundation.