We released a Great Horned Owl today after approximately 4 months in rehabilitation. We thought you would enjoy hearing about his fight for survival.
The Great Horned Owl was recovered by Becky, full-time wildlife rehabilitator for Flint Creek Wildlife, after we received numerous calls from concerned Barrington area residents and commuters who saw the owl on the side of Algonquin Road. It is infrequent that we get so many calls on one animal (approximately five different people called us within the span of 1/2 hour), but clearly he tugged at the heart strings of many people while standing on the shoulder of the busy road during morning rush hour.
As it turned out, the Great Horned Owl had probably been hit by a car several days prior, breaking his wing and rendering him unable to hunt for food. Near starvation, he came up to the shoulder of the road to try and eat road kill. It was then that he was sighted.
Once at Flint Creek Wildlife, we tube fed the starving bird every four hours around the clock for approximately two weeks before being able to advance him onto any solid food. For non-rehabilitators out there, feeding an emaciated animal solid food can actually kill it since the animal uses its last stores of energy in an attempt to digest the food. Instead, we offer small amounts of readily available calories frequently throughout the day and night until we can safely feed a more normal diet (this is one of the reasons that we instruct people who find an animal NOT to feed the animal).
Gradually, with intensive care, Algonquin (as we referred to him to help us differentiate from other Great Horned Owls in our care) regained his strength. His wing healed completely, he gained weight and he eventually made a complete recovery.
We moved Algonquin out to a flight chamber several weeks ago so that he could recondition his muscles and reacclimate to being outdoors. Today he was ready for release, hopefully still in time to find a mate and raise young this year.
Just before we released Algonquin he looked back at me, hating me as he always has and then he looked away. It was at that moment that he recognized how close freedom was. As I loosened my grip, he wasted no time flying off into the distant trees, free again.
Good luck, my friend.
Visit the Photo Gallery on our website to see more images of this amazing release.