Baraboo police chief confident in zoo break-in investigation, owls still missing

BARABOO, Wis. — Two great-horned owls are still missing after a break-in at the Ochsner Park Zoo earlier this week, but the Baraboo police chief said the investigation into the incident is progressing.

The owls along with two otters were let loose on Monday night after someone cut the locks to their habitats. Two kayakers later spotted the otters — Moe and Mitch — in a river near the zoo and called officials. No dangerous animals were let loose.

RELATED: Otters found, owls still missing from Ochsner Park Zoo after break-in, police say

Speaking to News 3 Now Thursday, Police Chief Rob Sinden said his department received good information and good leads from members of the public, though to protect the investigation he could not give many specifics on those leads.

He did say, however, that at this time the department believes that the break-in was not done for financial gain, but rather to free animals. He expressed concerns for the owls’ safety.

“If not born there, many of these animals were brought to the zoo when they were very young,” Sinden said. “They have health problems. They can’t survive in the wild.”

Sinden said that the owls can fly, but may have trouble getting food. The hope is that when the birds get hungry they will return to the area of the zoo where they are usually fed. Zoo officials told News 3 Now on Tuesday that the owls do not know how to hunt

Sinden said that he is confident that the investigation will resolve and the culprit(s) of the break-in will be arrested, but he did not know when that would happen.

Baraboo Parks and Recreation said Thursday that they had received multiple reports of owl sightings and offered some further information about the escaped animals. The owls have no physical markings that would distinguish them from other owls.

Officials said the best way to identify if the bird is from the zoo is by observing behaviors. The zoo’s owls will likely stay local, act more comfortable around humans and stay closer to the ground as they become weaker due to their inability to hunt.

Despite these owls being friendlier towards humans, officials cautioned against approaching the birds.