Saturday, August 25, 2012

An Injured Owl

My housemate occasionally works nights at a friend's bar as a bartender. Last night was one of those nights. She woke me up when she got home this morning (at 3 AM) to tell me she needed help. So I go out to her car with her, she opens the door and pulls out a big plastic tote with an owl sitting in it. She had seen it on her way home, it was just sitting on the side of the road so she went back and got it.

I've never seen an owl sit or stand on anything flat so I figured he needed better accommodations than a slippery plastic tote. I found a box big enough to hold him then went out in the yard and ripped a small branch off of a tree, breaking it into long pieces and stuffing it all in the box so the owl's feet would have something somewhat stable to grab on to when I put him in there. And grab they did! As soon as I set him in the box those feet grabbed a hold of the branches and it is staying upright with no problem. Since there are cats in the house, and more cats running rampant through the neighborhood all night I covered the box with a towel and put it in the shed until I can find a rescue or wildlife rehab person/place who will take it, then started googling. It sure is tough to find someone who will take a raptor. I've finally found one but they've yet to answer their phone and there is no voice mail.

Now that it's daylight I could see it a little better and I think the poor thing has been hit by a car. It's body, wings and legs all seem to be intact because nothing is sticking out or bent at weird angles but there is blood on it's beak and it won't open its eyes, which look a little swollen behind its eyelids. It can move its head but it's very docile, to the point where there's almost no reaction at all when I touch it. It does react to my voice when I talk to it, moving it's head as if it's looking in my direction. It's a beautiful bird, I hope I can get hold of someone who can help it recover.

Progress Report: I talked to the vet today, 7 Sep 2012. It's been a day shy of two weeks since I delivered the owl so I called again today and got a more detailed report of his condition. He's doing fine, no serious injuries, in fact what few injuries he did have seem to be all but healed. His eyes are open, he's alert as can be and he eats very well. The grip of his talons is quite strong, on one occasion piercing the thick leather gloves the vet techs wear when handling raptors, and he didn't want to let go. He held on to the poor girl's hand so hard and so long that the vet was about to gas the poor bird to make him let go. I think I've about sweet talked my way into being allowed to go visit and photograph the owl so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can get a couple good photos of him looking the way he is supposed to look; wide eyed, alert and majestic.

UPDATE:I went and saw the owl today, 10 Sep 2012, and talked to the vet herself so I got better info. He'll live, but he likely won't ever be released back into the wild. His right eye is damaged and possibly blind; the pupil stays fully dilated at all times and he exhibits zero response to any visual stimuli on that side. With only one functioning eye hunting will be next to impossible so he will most likely live out the rest of his life in a refuge or shelter as a display animal. He's pretty calm around people so there's a really good chance that he'll end up as an educational display, it will be easy to show him to people who have never seen an owl before, and as an added benefit he's very vocal which is apparently uncommon for owls in captivity. In fact, the little bugger was whooo-whooo-whoooing the whole time I was there taking pictures.

He was pretty uncooperative for the camera though. I tried repeatedly to get a shot with his wings fully open but he kept faking me out. His wingspan is huge, at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) at bare minimum. Even a frontal face shot was tough. I shot over three dozen photos and got 7 that were decent, lol. The last few in the album show him looking much better than when I first saw him.

Click on the slideshow to enable full screen view on Picasa


  1. Hello, sad owl story. I hope some vet can help.

    The slides I can see with Opera, not so with FF.
    Un abrazo!

    1. Yes, it is a sad story but I'm hoping it has a happy ending. I have learned that the owl survived the weekend, has a small wing injury and a head trauma. Hopefully he can hang in there.

      Shame on you for still using that ancient FF 3.6, the age of that version is why you can't see the slides. If you continue using that browser you'll miss a lot of the internet, it just can't deal with today's more modern versions of HTML and CSS, probably even Flash as well.

  2. If I update FF 3.6, my PC will freeze. Not so with Opera, Chrome & IE 8. OS = Windows XPsp3, two hard discs: 8 GB & 4 GB(my media locker), 256 MB RAM. A functional museum piece (like myself!).

    One of those hunting nights, begining the sixties among mexican jungles (before oil interests burned them out & turned the region into a desert), we went to the rancho 'el Porvenir' lagoon, to catch a 12 feet alligator legend. We had to advance in the dark, no lights nor sounds allowed, for that dino would go away at the slightest intrusion.

    On a ctle ranch, one has to open & close a lot of fences, that separate how cattle is fed & at what times (they are kind os grass cutters that change spaces to keep weeds under control). We guided our hands by touch, to lift the lasso that keeps gates well shutt. Then, our guide & cattle administrator, don Adolfo, started cursing & yelling while we went "SHHH! Cállate, hombre! You are scaring the pray!". I turned my light on, and saw that don Adolfo was holding the head of an adult white owl, while the other hand was prisoner of the owl's talons. We had to open those claws one by one, and turned back to the ranch house with our unvoluntary capture.

    I believe he was watching our night wanderings since some time back. In the jungle one has multiple eyes watching over, and over that fence the owl controled the trail, were he could fly & hunt under the tree tops. Funny how they open one eye & shut the other. The small beak is a huge trap when they open it!

    I did put a long chain on one of his feet, and he lived on a small tree, were I fed him with different rodents (a jungle plague!). He never was affraid of me, could be caresed & looked helpless in daylight. Made strange clacking noises with his beak when excited.

    Birds of prey are majestic, and as friendly as parrots. After some time, we let him go (he was a wild adult, not your owl's case). They are the best poisonous snake control, as well as excelent rodent control.

    Have a heavy gardners glove to lift him on your hand, he will be happier than with his talons captured. To feed him raw liver, you have to put the piece of meat over your thumb nail, so he feels the hard surface & take the food WITHOUT a piece of your finger (I forgot his beak is cracked. No danger then).

    Hasta pronto!