Posted by: atowhee | December 8, 2020


Death is always the last thing for organisms on this planet. But this darkening season in this particular year it can seem to dominate. A brother-in-law died of covid in a nursing home. The dear friend who played piano at our wedding over 40 years ago just lost his wife of decades. And one of the finest creatures I have ever met is not likely to live much longer. It is Shadow, a beloved and admired resident of Lindsay Museum in Walnut Creek. She is a venerable Great Gray Owl. When I was working on my GGO book a few years back she was the only GGO I could find in captivity in the whole state of California. Since then I have returned to Lindsay to talk of Shadow and her kind. Here is message I just got from Chris Beard who works at the Lindsay:

Shadow — A Long Life Coming to an End
From Emma Molinare, Curator of Animal Encounters:

I regret to inform you all that Shadow, LWE’s iconic and beloved Great Gray Owl, is nearing her final days. In recent weeks, we have noticed Shadow’s quality of life decline. The animal care team has made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize Shadow this week. Shadow has cancer and has endured many medical difficulties in the last few years. She has cataracts, a managed balance condition (similar to vertigo), and weakness in her legs. 

The skill, love, and dedication of the animal care team provided Shadow with a gentle extra year of life. A quiet exhibit hall and time in a new aviary ensured that Shadow’s 2020 was peaceful. I know 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for all of us. For many of us, news of Shadow’s condition will feel like losing a longtime friend. 

Shadow has lived at Lindsay Wildlife Experience since 1999 — a year in which we welcomed many of our beloved animal ambassadors including Alba, the Barn Owl; Houston, the Barred Owl; Bubo, the Great Horned Owl; and Hello, the Common Raven. Before her arrival at Lindsay, Shadow suffered a wing injury and was brought to the Minnesota Raptor Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Unfortunately, her wing injury left her unable to fully extend her right wing. This made Shadow unable to fly the distances required to survive in the wild. It was then when she moved to Lindsay Wildlife.

Shadow graced our exhibit hall when we were known as Lindsay Wildlife Museum. She captivated everyone who walked through the door. She was a crowd favorite whose focused yellow eyes would track your every move. If you stopped below her house, this regal ambassador of the tallest owl species in North America would turn to look right at you, even following you as you moved. But if you picked up your camera to take a picture, this cheeky bird would turn her head away. 

During her 21 years as a teacher, Shadow educated thousands of people about her species. She traveled to schools, flew in Raptor Redwood Grove, and captured people’s fascination at events. Her final outreach was at the wedding of a long-time volunteer and former staff member. After this beautiful event, Shadow entered retirement. Her legs were tired and her vision was cloudy. She would still occasionally thrill our visitors by swallowing a mouse whole while being only a few feet away from them. Later, Shadow mostly stood tall and watched us all from her perch 7 feet above the floor. 

In much of 2020, the sounds of screaming children, crying babies, and those prying cameras were absent from exhibit hall. Shadow got to enjoy a period of calm, quietude, and outdoor adventure. For the first time, we were able to regularly remove her custom falconry equipment and provide her with the opportunity to explore outdoors in an aviary. Camera recordings captured her bathing, jumping, and running around her new space. Over these past few weeks, mobility has been difficult for Shadow and she is unable to safely participate in the tasks she once enjoyed. It is with a heavy heart that the Animal Encounters animal care team decided that it was time.

In Shadow’s final days, she will go outside when supervised and be surrounded by love. If you have any photos or stories to share, the Animal Encounter’s team would love to receive them so we can share in honoring her memory. Shadow will not be forgotten because she will live on in all of our hearts. 

There are three past blogs that include images of Shadow during the few moments we were together.
Here is my blog when I first met her on the arm of a museum staffer as I was researching the book. I was espcially interested jn a close look on those sharp but only inch-long talons.

Then she came to hear me talk about her kind. Not sure what she thought–owls are often good at being silent.

Then a friend with a camera captured some Shadowy moments as we faced the audience together.

Click for link to Lindsay Museum website. They do great conservation and education work.


  1. What a grand tribute for this beautiful owl. It is difficult to see any wildlife comming to its end. Job well done to those who provided care to
    Shadow. Thank you for keeping us informed.

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