Athena was found on the ground in Richmond in September 2012. An animal control officer picked up the owl and took her to a local permitted rehabilitator. Athena was weak, uncoordinated, and also had significant retinal degeneration in both eyes. Based on these symptoms, the Center’s veterinarians believe that the owl may have been affected by West Nile Virus. Due to the partial blindness, Athena is non-releasable.
In January 2013, the Center kicked off a naming contest for this new education Barred Owl and solicited suggests from K-12 classrooms from around the world. In total, 86 suggestions were submitted from schools in 13 different states and Canada. Five names were put to a public vote – the winner was Athena, submitted by Mrs. Hill's 6th-8th grade Wildlife Club at Fort Bragg, NC. "I sent the students to research owls and come back with a suggested name for a girl owl. The key was researching owls and what other cultures believed about them. Three brought the ancient Greek history to me with Athena as a possible name. 'From ancient Athens, the silver four-drachma coin bore the image of the owl on the obverse side as a symbol of the city's patron, Athene Pronoia, the Greek goddess of wisdom who, in an earlier incarnation, was goddess of darkness' [The Owl Pages (Owls in Lore and Culture)]. We know it is a female and are suggesting Athena based on the Greek goddess of wisdom who was also the goddess of darkness!"