MUNSTER — Giant 4-foot, 50-pound owls are set to populate the Region by the dozens later this summer.

Humane Indiana is asking businesses, schools and individuals across Northwest Indiana to sponsor giant owl statues for a public art project called “Owl You Need is Love” that will benefit the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Valparaiso.

Pat Popa, chairwoman of the Owl Public Art Project, has been involved in getting the giant duck statues in Highland and massive decorative bulldogs across Crown Point. Popa hopes to see 50 decorative owls perched throughout Northwest Indiana by the project's end.

"This project is awesome because it brings two groups of people who are passionate together — people who are passionate about art and people who are passionate about animals,” Popa said. “And it's all for a good cause.”

The project will not only raise funds for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, but also raise awareness, Popa said.

The rehabilitation center in Valparaiso is a haven for an array of woodland creatures, feathered and furry. Some animals are released back in the wild, while those who cannot be fully rehabilitated become ambassador animals, cared for by the staff and showcased for educational events.

“We have a bald eagle we are rehabilitating. We've had some smaller owls, a great horned owl and snowy owl,” Popa said. “Right now we have an ambassador opossum who loves cuddles. We've had skunks and red-tailed hawks. Just about everything you could think of.”

Local artists were invited to work their creative magic on the hefty fiberglass statues, following the vision of the owls' sponsors. The Times of Northwest Indiana will have a Harry Potter owl and Our Lady of Grace School in Highland will have a “knight owl” in honor of their medieval, armored mascot.

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“We're really excited for the big reveal, when all of them are dispersed,” Popa said. “They're all blank canvases. It's exciting to see what each artist will do with them.”

Schools are also invited to get involved and will be able to keep the owl they sponsor and will get a special wildlife education presentation.

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Starting Aug. 1, the owls will be displayed at the sponsors' chosen locations until Nov. 1. Sponsors will be able to purchase the owls and unsold owls will be auctioned off in mid-November, Popa said.

“It's also a unique way to advertise businesses,” Popa said. “There will be a map of all of the owls' locations so people can take a Saturday to visit them all and take pictures.”

Applications to participate should be turned in by mid-June for businesses and schools will have an extended deadline to be decided. Those interested in sponsoring an owl or learning more can contact Humane Indiana's Lisa Carpenter at 219-513-8911, ext. 106, or lcarpenter@humaneindiana.org.

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Night Crime/Breaking News Reporter

Anna Ortiz is the breaking news/crime reporter for The Times, covering crime, politics, courts, investigative news and more. She is a Region native and graduate of Ball State University with a major in journalism and minor in anthropology.