When an Alakef Coffee Roasters employee called Wednesday to say they had found an owl stuck in a coffee machine, Wildwoods Wildlife Rehabilitation thought it was a joke at first.
And in fact an owl was far from Alakef employee Ezra Bennett's mind when he went to investigate a strange noise he was hearing from within a piece of equipment at the Duluth business that day.
But when Bennett opened the door to the machine's cooling system, a startled snowy owl was looking back at him.
"I caught sight of something white. I saw eyes and then I saw feathers and then I think it tried to fly out because it was spooked, seriously startled and very dirty," Bennett said.
The owl - now named Mokka, for one spelling of the Yemeni port city known for its coffee - was rescued by Wildwoods, found to be uninjured and was headed to the Raptor Center in the Twin Cities for further examination, Bennett said Thursday night.
"She was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I was in the right place at the right time," Bennett said.
Snowy owls generally are found in the Arctic; a few snowies come down as far as Minnesota and Wisconsin each winter. Some years, they come into the U.S. by the thousands in what's known as an irruption.
Bennett said the machine was making its typical noises except for something rattling around when he was cleaning it at about 3 p.m. Wednesday.
"My first thought was there's a raccoon or something in here, but that's impossible because the only way it could actually get into there is through the smokestack on the top of the building - the top of the stack is about 30 feet up from the roof," Bennett said.
Bennett said they believe Mokka somehow ended up going into the smokestack on Alakef's roof that is attached to the machine's cooling system, but was unable to fly back out due to the small diameter. The cooling system is a closed system - Mokka never reached the roaster or beans - and the owl was found in the chaff collector where the residue from the coffee goes at the bottom of the smokestack.
When Bennett saw that it was an owl inside the machine, he immediately closed the door because he knew if the owl got out, they'd never be able to catch it in their warehouse.
"I hollered at the guys in the main part of production area to call Wildwoods because we got an owl trapped in the chaff collector," he said.
Bennett said they were fortunate that they found the owl an hour before Wildwoods closed for the day and were able to have Wildwoods come to remove the owl. He said he encourages people to donate to Wildwoods because without them, the owl wouldn't have been rescued and on its way to the Raptor Center.