Bob DeGaetano figured he was getting a workout Wednesday morning.
But when he pulled into the Island Gym parking lot in Northfield, he got a surprise.
There was a bird stuck in the grill of a car. So, he took out his phone and, with video rolling, went to investigate.
Turns out, it was a snowy owl who had been struck by the car.
“The thing was chill as can be,” he said of the bird.
The recently retired Atlantic City police captain didn’t know help had already been called. So, he set about trying to free the bird.
He enlisted the help of another gym-goer passing by.
As they worked, a man with a box and a towel showed up, DeGaetano.
“It was like he was prepared for it,” DeGaetano said.
The man was veterinarian Dr. Mark Newkirk, who had been called by a mutual friend of his and the car’s owner.
DeGaetano and his unnamed helper got the bird out, and Newkirk got her into the box and two his Egg Harbor Township animal hospital.
Newkirk dubbed the bird “her,” although he said he didn’t want to put the bird through the added stress of determining gender.
The endangered owl was in shock, so he treated her for that.
Then they did X-rays, which showed she had a fracture to upper wing near the joint.
Since the bird is endangered, only a vet with federal licensing can treat them, Newkirk explained.
But they kept the bird incubated and her blood sugar up while they waited for her to get picked up.
Tri-State Bird Rescue from Delaware picked her up Thursday morning.
While there seem to have been recent sightings of the birds in Cape May, there don’t appear to be any in Atlantic County.
Although experts have said the bird’s population has been expanding its terrain.
DeGaetano was just glad to be able to have the rare opportunity.
“It was very calm and very soft,” he said. “It’s a once in a lifetime adventure.”