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Brenden Welper | | September 23, 2019

5 questions with Stella the Owl's handler

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A person in a costume is the most practical mascot for many programs. But there are others with the luxury to be a bit more authentic.

Stella the Owl is the live mascot for the Temple Owls. And she's the real deal.

Rebecca Oulton is Stella's primary handler and an educator at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown, PA. The Owls play their home games roughly 25 miles away in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field.

We recently called Oulton to find out more about Temple University's most famous owl.

Q: How old is Stella, and how did she become the owl of Temple University?

A: (Stella) is 9 years old, which is actually young for an owl. They can live up to 30 years old.

Temple reached out to us, and wanted to see if we had an ambassador animal to come to the (football) games. We tried her out and she did very well. She's been going for about six years now.

Q: What kind of owl is Stella?

A: She is a great horned howl. They're very common in Pennsylvania and most of the country.

Q: What is her game-day routine?

A: First, we load her up into a special transportation crate. We give her some food shortly before as a reward, and then let her digest for a bit because she can get car sick.

She sits on her perch for the first half of game, then there is the halftime meet-and-greet, and we'll sometimes stay until the second (half).

Temple does a great job working with us. They're very understanding to her temperature parameters and whether it's too hot. They go out of their way to accommodate her. It's a team effort to make sure (Stella) is set up for success.

She's a bit of diva, but she kind of likes being the focus of attention.

Q: What's your favorite part about working with Stella at a Temple football game?

A: As much as I love the games, I really enjoy some of the other events while we're not on the field.

I love seeing the season-ticket holders, because we get to be even closer with some of the fans. They get to be right in front of Stella, ask us questions, and see her up close. We really try to get around to see everybody.

(The players) are usually very excited and in awe of her. I've also had plenty of players who are kind of afraid of her and give us (some) space. It's kind of one extreme or the other. 

Q: What is something you would like people to know about owls like Stella?

A: One of my favorite facts about owls is that they can only turn their heads about 3/4 of the way around. They can't roll their eyes around in their eye sockets like we can. So the ability to move their neck that far is very important.

Most people believe that they can move it 360 degrees, but that's actually not possible.

Great horned owls are also completely silent birds. Their feathers make no noise at all when they're flying. They rely on being stealthy and quiet when they're hunting.

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