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Owl recovering after collision with Green Line train

An owl collided with a Green Line train on the Riverside branch but didn’t appear to be severely injured.
An owl collided with a Green Line train on the Riverside branch but didn’t appear to be severely injured.(MBTA)

This story is a real hoot. Just before midnight Wednesday, a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority employee operating a Green Line trolley on the Riverside branch in Brookline had a run-in with an unusual customer.

Operator Hoa Tran reportedly realized that an owl had swooped in and somehow made contact with the vehicle. Whether it hit the window, or the train was moving at the time, is unclear.

But the T worker jumped into action. “She was able to assist the bird from the track area to a bench, and a Green Line official was dispatched to the station,” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo in a statement.

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Christopher McLaughlin, a T inspector, and Supervisor Fred Difederico responded to the scene and secured the dazed and confused bird of prey, placing it into a cardboard box, Pesaturo said.

There was no damage to the trolley, and no one was injured.

With the owl in safe keeping, the MBTA’s control center contacted several local agencies, including Brookline and Boston animal control officials, the MSPCA, and Massachusetts Environmental Police for assistance.

Unfortunately, Pesaturo said, none of the workers from those agencies were able to respond to help take the owl away, and check on its condition.

Luckily, MBTA officials said, the Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, which is located in North Grafton, was open overnight. The animal hospital said they would be glad to take in the owl, but had no spare hands to come pick the bird up all the way in Brookline.

Determined to make sure the owl stayed in good health, and that it wasn’t severely injured, Pesaturo said McLaughlin, the MBTA inspector, transported the owl himself to the facility in Grafton at the end of his shift.

Officials from the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife identified the bird as an Eastern screech owl.

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“It’s one of our smallest owls in the state,” said Marion Larson, department spokeswoman, in an e-mail. “It’s pretty cool to see one. Good for the trolley operator and to the MBTA inspector who took the bird to Tufts Wildlife Clinic out in Grafton.”

A Tufts official said Thursday that the owl sustained “serious injuries,” including a broken wing, and the prognosis for the bird’s recovery “remains guarded.”

Acting MBTA general manager, Brian Shortsleeve praised the workers’ efforts.

“It’s always great to see our employees go over and above their regular duties,” he said in a statement. “It was a terrific team effort last night by some very dedicated employees.”


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.