Central-Linc Elementary School Principal Vanessa Nasset and teacher Rob Freistadt were walking outside their school Wednesday when the two were attacked by a pigeon.
“I hear this bird flapping its wings behind us. I start screaming and it lands on Rob’s head,” the principal said.
When the pigeon wouldn’t budge, Nasset knew something strange was happening. But they had no idea the bird was the missing pet of one of the elementary school’s students, or that it had apparently flown 15 miles to get there, despite having never visited Helena before.
The pigeon, named Foresta, had disappeared the previous day from fifth-grader Tara Atkins’ home in the Elkhorns outside Montana City, where the bird often roams in the yard.
“This pigeon has never been to town before,” Atkins’ mother Krys Holmes said. “We got her as a baby, and she just hangs out at home.”
Foresta and her family were reunited when Atkins was asked by her principal if she wouldn’t mind helping the adults catch a pigeon, which they had been struggling for more than an hour to contain.
“My big concern was, let’s get this bird contained so we don’t have it going after kids. It was just sky-bombing everyone,” Nasset said.
A police officer was called, and staff tried wooing the bird into laundry baskets, but to no avail.
Atkins was called to the scene because a parent recalled that the girl owned a pigeon. The adults figured she might have some tricks to catch the bird.
Atkins recognized Foresta by the bird’s distinct coloration and a blue band tied around its leg.
“I was pretty happy,” Atkins said.
But as Atkins tried to catch her pigeon, the school bell rang and students poured outside — yet another setback.
“It was quite a rodeo to get her to calm down enough that we could catch her,” said Holmes, who had been unaware of the circumstances when she arrived to pick up her daughter.
Fellow fifth-grader Owen Cleary finally caught the bird by throwing a blanket over it as the animal stood atop the boy’s head.
Foresta’s owners are still trying to determine how the bird turned up at school and on the teachers’ heads. To Holmes, the journey is inexplicable.
“It is the most amazing thing,” she said. “I just don’t know. What is the universe made of?”