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Real-life avian drama unfolds at Spring Lake Park

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Countless times over the years, Jean Foster of Hastings would go on long walks with her bird Jojo. At first, she was careful and had the bird’s wings clipped so it couldn’t fly away.

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But over the years, Foster and Jojo grew closer and on Sunday, Foster figured she wouldn’t have to bother with clipping Jojo’s wings before their big walk at Spring Lake Park.

She was wrong.

At about 5 p.m. Sunday, Jojo was spooked by a large dog and flew off. For more than two hours, Foster searched frantically for her bird, which she bought 10 years ago. Finally, at about 7:30 p.m., Foster heard Jojo’s call. She followed the call and eventually located the female military macaw in a tree about 40 feet off the ground. Try as she did, though, Jojo just would not come down. As darkness descended on the park, Foster made the agonizing decision to abandon her best friend and go home for the night.

“The most heartbreaking thing was when I had to leave her at night,” Foster said. “We had to leave her. There was nothing we could do. She was crying. I know that cry. It was the same cry over and over. It was horrible.”

By 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Foster was back at the park with a tree service along with her. They went to the same tree that Jojo was in on Sunday, and, sure enough, there she was.

Once the tree service evaluated the situation, though, they backed out. They feared that by bringing in their heavy equipment, they would just scare the bird farther into the woods.

Foster then called the Dakota County parks department, and they responded right away. They helped Foster call different tree trimming businesses, but none were getting back to them. Finally, one of the park’s supervisors remembered the name Greg Witt. He operates Witt-L-Away Tree Service in Hastings and had worked with the county before. Soon after the initial call, Witt was on scene with a big cherry picker. He ascended, and suddenly, Jojo descended. She flew off her perch, circled around four times and then flew right to Foster.

“It was just beautiful,” Foster said. “She could have been gone forever.”

Support

Foster received a lot of support and help during the ordeal. Her daughter Vanessa Hendrickson stayed with her mother during a sleepless Sunday night.

Foster also appreciated the work done by Witt.

“He is a very generous man,” she said. “He didn’t even quote me a price. He said, ‘Whatever you think.’ I gave him a pretty hefty donation for doing that.”

Foster said she learned her lesson about keeping Jojo’s wings clipped.

“You’re never safe with an exotic bird,” she said. “Usually, I’ve kept her wings clipped, but she’s trained to be on me. She’s never moved off me. I’ve had her so long. I just thought, ‘She won’t go anywhere.’”

All of that changed on Sunday, obviously, and Foster has vowed to never make the same mistake again. She’ll have plenty of time to demonstrate that, as birds like Jojo live to be 50 to 60 years old.

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Chad Richardson
Chad Richardson is the publisher and editor at the Hastings Star Gazette. He was the general manager of the Farmington Independent and Rosemount Town Pages from 2000 to 2007. He previously worked at the Star Gazette from 1996 to 2000 as a photographer and reporter. He also worked as a photographer and writer at the Pope County Tribune in Glenwood.
(651) 319-4500
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