Hundreds of pet owls are reportedly being abandoned by ex-Harry Potter fans across the UK as JK Rowling's Potter craze wanes after the release of the final film version last year.
Harry’s cute owl companion Hedwig instigated a surge in the demand for owls as pets, but now that the Potter craze has died down, bird sanctuaries are reporting an alarming increase in abandoned pet owls.
The Mirror reports fears that many more birds were simply released into the wild and may have starved to death alternatively taken over territory inhabited by smaller owls - possibly starving them instead.
Owls can live for up to 20 years and require a fair bit of looking after reports the Mirror:
"Many owners have become fed-up of repeatedly having to clean up garages and sheds of their droppings and feathers."
The paper quotes bird rescue worker Pam Toothill, of the Owlcentre in Corwen, North Wales, who is caring for up to 100 owls:
“Before the films were out I had six owls, now it’s 100. It’s all down to Harry Potter. I know it’s not JK Rowling’s fault, but people didn’t think enough about buying an owl before getting one.
"People saw Harry’s owl in the movies and thought how cute and cuddly they looked. Now they are bored and fed-up with all the work involved looking after an owl. Ideally you need a 20ft aviary, and that costs about £900.
"Owls need enough space to be able to flap their wings five times before landing back on a perch, or they get a chest infection. But we had one lady who was keeping two owls in her bedside cabinet in her bedroom. And there was a chap with a European Eagle Owl, which has a 5ft wingspan, in his one-bedroom flat. It’s insane.”
It's legal to keep an owl as a pet in the UK, and no licence is needed, but it's illegal to release a captive owl into the wild for fear that it will take over from native wild owls. According to the Mirror,anyone caught releasing a captive owl faces up to six months in jail or a £5,000 fine. The paper also notes that the Potter-related owl craze resembles that of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle film in the early 1990s, when thousands of unwanted pet terrapins were dumped in Britain’s rivers, canals and lakes.