Off-Cape Screech Owl Rescue and Release
At Wild Care caring for sick and injured wildlife every day makes us hyper aware of animal life and potential patients even when we are not working. Walking in the woods or on a beach we will see a lumpy shape ahead and begin calculating. ..Bird? Mammal? Dead? Moving? Then as we near our approach we see it is somebody’s lost jacket or an old wet glove. Other times we will be driving and they come right to us like when I was on my way to work and a Gray Catbird unfortunately slammed into my windshield.
In September Niki Walley, one of our rehabilitators at Wild Care, was on her way to work off Rte 25 just before the Sagamore Bridge, and for a split second thought she saw what resembled an Eastern Screech Owl sitting on the side of the road. She figured it wasn’t and kept on driving. When I got to work she told me about it, and how she felt guilty and regretted not turning around to make sure it was just trash. This was really bothering her, so we began deciding which volunteer we could send to go check it out. Just then the phone rang and Niki answered. “…Was it right before the bridge on the highway? I was just there and thought I saw something. I’m so glad you checked it out! Please bring it in!” Niki was so happy. It WAS an owl on the side of the road and it had been rescued!
The little red-morph Eastern Screech Owl was driven to us by a nice couple and their little girl. They too happened to be bird people- wildlife photographers on their way to document the extreme amount of shearwater activity at Race Point in Provincetown.
Our assumption was that the owl had been stuck by a car, and its injuries were conducive to that- head trauma and an eye injury. Luckily there were no bone fractures or wounds, and its body condition was very good- a chunky little guy. The bird was stunned and quiet but could stand. After fluids and medicine to reduce brain swelling, the bird perked up after a few days began eating on its own. The eye was still an issue. It had response to light, and the owl maneuvered well in its small habitat, but the pupil was not normal. After Dr. Louise Morgan of Brewster Veterinary Hospital examined the eye, she recommended to just give it some more time. But confirmed there was no infection or damage that should deem it a non-releasable bird. Adult Screech Owls can be released successfully with compromised vision in one eye as they do much of their hunting with their ears, and already have hunting experience. Because of this, they are often able to compensate for the lack of vision in one eye.
After staying for a fews days in an outdoor aviary, Niki was very happy to cart the little owl back over the bridge to a wooded park very close to its rescue site. It took off into the trees as if it knew exactly where it was. Back in its own territory! Hopefully after its two week stay at Wild Care it has learned to stay away from traffic. 🙂
Thanks Niki for the nighttime delivery home.
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Wild Care has a state-of-the-art seabird therapy pool, which allows seabirds and waterfowl to exercise on running water. This will help our bird friends recover more quickly so they can get back to their watery habitats!