A few weeks ago, my family and I were on a walk in our neighborhood when we spotted a massive ball of feathers on the ground. We walked over to take a closer look, and you can imagine our surprise when two golden eyes popped open! With so many fluffy, downy feathers, it was apparent that this was a very young owl, but it was unusual to see one on the ground in broad daylight.
After closer, but not too close, inspection, we realized that his eye looked injured or infected. We called The Snake Chaser, a local company who specializes in wildlife removal. They care for animals they remove by placing them back in a more proper natural habitat (A.K.A. anywhere EXCEPT our yard). The Snake Chaser suggested we try to contain the owl and take it to the Animal Emergency Hospital of the Strand (a local veterinarian office that is open only when other vets are closed - holidays, nights, weekends, etc.).
This is where the story really begins, and here is some helpful information about capturing an owl:
1. Wear gloves.
2. Bring a blanket and a box.
3. Work fast.
4. Watch out for the talons! Really, really watch out for the talons.
5. The beak isn't weak.
6. Feathers are light. At over 12 inches tall, he weighed under three pounds.
7. Hope for the best.
In one quick action and without major injury, a blanket was used to cover him, and he was scooped up and into a box. Whew! The blanket provided enough darkness to keep him calm on his first ever car ride! Behind the scenes, the Snake Chaser arranged for a woman named Irene to examine the bird at the veterinary clinic. Irene works with The Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw, South Carolina, an amazing avian conservation center that provides research, education, medical care and so much more for birds of prey. Irene determined that he was a beautiful baby Great Horned Owl, and that his eye should be cared for. That earned him his second-ever car trip... to Awendaw, SC.
There, his eye was treated, and something really special happened! Irene called me to say that he was fit to be released back into his original natural environment… with a friend!!! Another owl of similar age (6-8 weeks old), this one from Georgia, needed to learn how to be a self-sufficient owl. Apparently a mom and dad owl will rarely leave a baby behind… even if it isn't theirs, so the goal was to release both owls back into the wild with the hopes of adoption.
Irene studied the woods to find an ideal release location. She shared that owl parents can find their babies over miles and acres so there was no need to know the exact location of the nest. The most daunting part of the release was removing these fellas from their cage. Thankfully, that was her job.
I affectionately named the owls Pancho (from Georgia) and Lefty (found in our neighborhood). It seemed fitting somehow.
Irene placed Lefty on the branch. He flew off in a rush!
Not Pancho. These woods were new, and he wasn't as eager to be off and on his way. He stayed to show off for the camera a bit.
I'm so glad he did!
Many of our neighbors have also connected with the owls through this story. They text us photos of them, and mention that they've been hearing them often. It would appear that the adoption has been a success! One night we watched from my son's window as one of the owls flew into the woods, emerged with a snake in his talons, and flew off to his nest. My four year old was absolutely blown away!
It was an invigorating experience being able to witness these owls up close, and equally as heartwarming knowing the efforts of all of the people who have such a love for animals that they devote their time and lives to helping keep nature in balance.
"A man's heart away from nature becomes hard." - Standing Bear
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