15 April 2015. Faithful readers may recall my January posting about a Snowy Owl that I helped rescue. It was a roadside casualty and I was called upon to ferry it from a nearby animal rescue centre to the Owl Foundation some 60 Km away. (A worthy wildlife cause if ever there was.)
I’m on the foundation’s list of volunteer ambulance drivers and just after lunch today I was again called to see if I could collect an owl in distress, this time it was a young Great-horned Owl that had been picked up on a golf course. Off I went and found it in the care of four burly young grounds-keepers. It had been discovered under a pine tree early in the day, picked up, cuddled and cared for as best they knew how. They had checked with a local veterinarian who gave them a number of suggestions, including the Owl Foundation. When I arrived, it was in a covered cardboard box and evidently terrified with the events that had overtaken it. As I picked it up to go, it was clear that the hearts of these large men had melted over a baby owl. They wanted to know what would happen to it and when, if ever, it would go free. One of them had already checked with his wife to see if they could raise it themselves; wisely, she refused.
It is the Owl Foundation’s practice to save orphaned or injured owls and to return them from whence they came if possible. In this case, I felt pretty sure that the chick could be reared to maturity and returned to the golf course, so I told them to expect to hear from the foundation when it was time to release it.
An hour or so later I delivered it to the Owl Foundation. It clacked its beak loudly as we opened the box. The technician picked it up carefully and decided that it was perhaps a week or maybe a week and a half old. There was no note of reserve or caution in her voice because, as she said; “Oh we’ll just put him in with Old Red and she’ll take care of him – or her.” Old Red is a wise old owl, injured and unable to fly, she tends orphans every year and will foster it like one of her own. All being well, in September or October it will be returned to the golf course; Dave and the boys will be happy to see it again.
This photo says it all: helpless but feisty and full of potential. Note the size of its beak.
If there’s any unhappy part to this story it is that January’s rescued Snowy Owl did not live very long. I had delivered in what we’d thought was fairly good condition but a respiratory infection soon set in and turned out to be fatal.