Beloved owl — one of NC zoo’s oldest residents — dies at age 38. ‘She will be missed’

Screengrab from the WNC Nature Center on Facebook

A beloved nocturnal creature — one of the oldest residents at a North Carolina zoo — has died at 38.

Scruff the orphaned owl started living at the Western North Carolina Nature Center in 1987. She arrived at the facility with a broken wing, believed to have been the result of a car crash, the wildlife park said.

Scruff’s injury made it impossible for her to live in the wild, so she became a “permanent” resident of the zoo. Over the years, she charmed visitors, with her wing serving as an important reminder for drivers.

“She teaches the importance of not throwing garbage out of windows while driving,” officials wrote in 2018. “Trash on the roadside attracts rodents, which in turn attracts their predators, owls, to fly into the road.”

We are sad to announce the loss of our Great Horned Owl, Scruff. She came to the WNC Nature Center in April 1987 after...

Posted by WNC Nature Center on Wednesday, September 27, 2023

But after Scruff spent decades getting a second chance, the zoo shared the sad update that she lost her life at age 38.

“In her old age, Scruff was being cared for by the veterinary care team for arthritis and heart disease,” the wildlife center wrote Sept. 27 on Facebook. “She will be missed by all.”

Scruff was a great horned owl, which often live into their teen years in the wild. The species is found across North Carolina and gets its name from “prominent ear tufts of feathers” that look like horns, according to the zoo and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

“The huge eyes face forward, giving the animal binocular vision and enabling it to pinpoint prey with deadly accuracy,” the commission wrote on its website. “Horned owls have an especially keen auditory sense, and the unique construction of owl feathers also enables owls to fly with virtually no sound.”

The WNC Nature Center, located in the mountain town of Asheville, didn’t immediately share additional information with McClatchy News on Sept. 27.

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