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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -
A Great Horned Owl hit by a car on I-77 last year – stuck eerily in its car grill -- is now flying over Charlotte.
After 98 days at the Carolina Raptor Center, the owl was released into the wild Tuesday night. WBTV was invited to be part of the celebration.
After hitting the owl with his car in late October, Charlotte Johnson & Wales professor Howard Slutzky took the injured bird to the Carolina Raptor Center. Several surgeries, physical therapies and medicines later, the owl (who is un-named), was declared healthy enough to fly to freedom.
Howard is the one who released her Tuesday night. He said he had mixed emotions… devastated to be the one who hit her, but thrilled to be a rescuer.
"I'm so grateful that this tragedy has a miraculous ending," he said.
The final medical cost – all provided by the non-profit Carolina Raptor Center – was almost $3000.
Heather Moeller, a worker at the Center, says releasing owls and other raptors back into the wild is the most rewarding part of her job.
"When you see that bird flying back into the woods or over a lake or whatever habitat they fit best in," she says, "it really warms your heart because you know that you did something good for the environment."
The Center sees about 50 Great Horned Owls each year. All rehabilitation is paid for by donations.
"I was just so grateful that this owl survived," says Howard. "And that a place like the Carolina Raptor Center is available to do what they do."