Barred Owl Saved From The Drink
Conventional Wisdom recommends against mowing first thing in the morning when the grass is still wet. “Ha!” say I. “What do you know, Conventional Wisdom?” I had just gotten done mowing when it started to rain. Victoriously, I thought had I waited, I would have had to mow the grass when it was wet. Oh, wait. I see the potential flaw in my logic there. I am not on speaking terms with the whole Wisdom family.
Luckily I am not the only person who doesn’t always play by the rules. Recently we had gotten a few calls at Peace River Wildlife Center from the Arcadia area. There was a barred owl caught in fishing line in a tree over a pond in Morgan Park, about ten feet out over the water. Numerous people had called, but none were able to get to the bird easily. We work closely with Animal Arc of Arcadia in that neck of the woods. They often help us with rescues and many local people take animals to them as a drop-off point until the injured and orphaned wildlife can be transported to PRWC. We called our friends at Animal Arc, but held out little hope that they could reach the owl either.
While we were frantically trying to locate someone with a boat that could possibly get out to the owl, some intrepid soul took the situation into her own hands. Literally. Brittany Coker was visiting her mother, Jencie Griffis, who happens to live near the Arcadia park. When Brittany saw the owl was suspended upside down, with its head touching the water, she didn’t give her own safety a second thought. She waded right into the pond up to her waist and cut the fishing line that had ensnared the bird. Cradling the exhausted bird to her chest, Brittany rushed him to PRWC where he was treated for exhaustion and possible aspiration pneumonia, since he may have inhaled some of the pond water.
Once the barred owl had dried off and no longer appeared to be in distress, he was placed in an outdoor prerelease cage. We assumed it was a male because of its relatively small size. In most birds of prey species, the females are larger than the males. We monitored this guy for a few days and decided he was ready to be released back out to his home range since he showed no signs of injury or illness.
While we generally recommend using a towel or heavy gloves to handle a large bird, Brittany was luckily uninjured during her encounter with the owl, probably due to the fact that the poor bird was so tired from trying to hold his head above water for so long. Most people are familiar with the dangers pet birds like parrots can pose with their strong beaks. These seed-eating birds can break a person’s finger as easily as they can crack a nut shell. With birds of prey, most of their power is in their razor-sharp talons. Many raptors catch and tear apart their prey using their feet. We teach our rescuers to pay close attention to the feet on these birds, and to cover the head of any bird while handling it to lower the stress for the bird and the risk of injury to the rescuer.
PRWC is always grateful to the public for assisting us with rescues like this one. While we do have a few volunteer rescuers we can call on when the need arises, they are not always in the right area at the right time. Quite often by the time a rescuer gets to the location where an injured animal was last seen, it has moved and cannot be found, or it is too late to save the animal, as could have been the case with this owl. Hats off to Brittany for taking a chance and saving a life. In the words of Thomas Edison, “There are no rules here—we’re trying to accomplish something.”
by-Robin Jenkins, DVM