Barred owl with gunshot wound

Wildlife-1, Gun-Toting Troglodytes-0.  I’m not even referring to the recent black bear hunt in Florida.  I refuse to slog into that particular morass at this time.  Peace River Wildlife Center admitted a barred owl a few weeks ago that had been shot.  More than once.  On numerous occasions.


The pellet that brought him down hit the ulna, the larger of the two bones in the middle of his wing, and splintered it.  Interestingly in mammals the bones of the forelimb are the radius (larger of the two) and ulna (the smaller one).  In birds the nomenclature is reversed—the ulna is bigger and the radius is smaller.  I doubt that the owl cares about the terminology and it is pretty obvious that the shooter has no regard for anything other than his sanctimonious right to use whatever he wants for his target practice.


There were other pellets imbedded in the wing of this owl, in varying degrees of healing.  There was evidence up by his shoulder and at his wrist that he had been shot previously.  The tissue surrounding those pellets was in varying degrees of healing and the pellets were too deep to risk removal without potentially causing more damage.  If the pellets were close to or in the digestive tract, we would make an effort to remove them, since they could cause a lead toxicity as they break down.  But since they are so far removed from the GI tract, there is a greater chance of causing damage to the very delicate sites of the wing joints, and that would render the bird unable to fly and unreleasable—our primary goal.


Luckily, if you can call an owl who has been shot at least three times lucky, his radius was intact.  That acted as an internal splint, in conjunction with our external splint and wrap, the wing healed well.  Since birds’ bones are hollow they heal much more quickly than mammals’.  In less than a month, the owl was able to be returned to his home range.  Hopefully he will stay away from the location where he was shot.  Or perhaps a visit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer to whom this incident was reported (by law) will be effective in educating the offenders that this was a federal violation.  While no legal action was taken, a warning was issued.  It is our fervent hope that the children (we hope it was children who simply knew no better) have learned a valuable lesson and will never shoot an innocent animal again just for sport.


According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, it is a federal offense to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or possess…any migratory bird…or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.”  This is not exactly a new rule.  1918 folks.  That was before my mother was born, and I’m pretty sure she rode a dinosaur to work like Fred Flintstone.  If a child is old enough to have a gun, he is old enough to understand the rules and laws associated with that privilege.  In the immortal words of Graham Nash, teach your children well.

by-Robin Jenkins, DVM

X-ray of barred owl with multiple pellets in right wing
X-ray of barred owl with multiple pellets in right wing