Every few years, we witness owl irruptions in our area. These are northern species of owls such as the Great Gray, Snowy and Northern Hawk owls driven south usually by the lack of prey in their northern habitat. I dread these irruptions because it usually means I end up with starving birds in rehab, often past the point of saving.
When I received a call from an acquaintance in Fort Frances about an owl he had taken in after it had been hit on the highway, I was expecting the worse. I figured it would not only be starving but also with either internal injuries or broken bones. He assured me that the FF vet had checked it over and found no breaks. But when he tried to release it as directed by the local OMNRF, it would not fly.
So he delivered it to me in Kenora where my vet checked it out more thoroughly. True, there were no breaks, but when we separated the facial disc feathers to examine the huge owl ear, bruising was apparent in back of the ear. An oral examine showed bruising at the back of the throat as well. I imagine it had one massive headache. On a good note, there was no bruising on the back of the eye and its eyes responded well and evenly. Also, it showed no signs of emaciation. Whew, this one has a good chance!
It was willing to eat immediately and since this year, red backed voles are in great numbers, I had no trouble getting enough food for him. My freezer was well stocked and I was able to catch fresh ones nightly for him. Because of his throat bruising, I skinned and chopped eight to ten a day for him, and supplemented this with grouse meat.
He was content initially to sit in the flight cage and watch the squirrels and mice as they fed on the sunflower seeds I left on the floor of the flight cage. But after a few days, there was evidence, he was trying to catch them…a good sign. And he started to call, and search for a way out of the cage. So Monday Bruce and I drove him up north to an area of cut-overs and marshes where hunting should be good.
His initial take off was low to the ground but strong. In retrospect, the low flight was wise as it was still light enough that the ravens may be lurking. He swooped down in among some conifers and sat for a moment, then hopped up onto a downfall and surveyed his surroundings. Here is where we left him and wished him well.
Once again, several caring people made this happen, and many thanks to them and to the wonderful veterinarians who make this all possible!
On a fun note, I wanted to add a photo I took of a GGO face plant in the snow several years ago…he got the mouse too