Back to the Wild

So a while back I did a blog post on a barred owl, Keep Your Shirt On. Well over the weekend we were excited to release the owl back to where he was found.

When my co-worker and I arrived at the finders’ house, we knocked on the door and a pig squealed. Looking through the glass we could see a miniature pig squealing and wagging his tail! The finders told us that he was a house pet and that he even slept in the bed with them. That was it, at that moment I really wanted a pig…I just don’t have a place to put a pig.

The finders were super excited that I was willing to drive 40 minutes to their house to release the barred owl back to his home. The finders excitedly took us out back and showed us a field with pine trees.

“Will this do okay?” The husband asked.

Looking at the field and trees I looked to see how many houses were in the area, there wasn’t very many, “It’s perfect.”

I situate the cat carrier so the barred owl was facing the field so that he had room to fly out before having to navigate around trees. Then I look at the finders, “The honor is all yours!”

The wife immediately spoke up, “You can do it, honey.”

I showed the husband how to open the cat carrier without being in the owl’s way. Then on the count of three, he opened the carrier. Without hesitation, the owl was out of the carrier before the door was already open. He flew a short distance and landed on one of the first trees in the clearing and started checking out his surroundings. The finder said that they have seen a barred owl in that same tree before, I told them that it was likely the same owl that we were watching at that very moment.

It was a perfect release, the owl flew beautifully and we released him back home. Barred owls don’t usually migrate and they spend their whole life in the same square mile they were born in, so we like to release them back home.

Here’s a link to the video I took showing the owl release in both normal speed and slow motion. The lighting wasn’t that great, but you have to release owls at night because they are nocturnal.

BDOW Release

Keep Your Shirt On

So a few weeks ago a finder called about a small owl that he had seen get hit by a car.

“Okay, I will see you at Earth Fare in an hour.” I hung up the phone just in time to see my kid (she’s a kid I home school) skidding across the hardwood floor and pounding up the stairs to her mother.

“Mommy, mommy!” She gasped out of breath from the exertion and excitement. “We’re going to Earth Fare to get an EASO (pronounced e-so)!”

Wait, I never invited her to come pick up an owl from a finder in a town thirty minutes away on snow-covered roads. I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with the kind of responsibility that came with someone else’s child in your backseat.

I heard her mom calling down, “Okay guys, just be safe when you go.”

Well, it’s settled, and shortly after that, we headed out to pick up an owl. It’s January and that means that it is EASO season. In wildlife rehabilitation, we abbreviate species by their names. Reptiles and mammals are abbreviated by their scientific name. EASO is an Eastern Screech-owl. When the finder said he had a midsize owl, I assumed that in all likely hood it was going to be a screech-owl.

After a long forty minute drive of being asked about shock collars, we blessedly arrived. I claimed the owl from the finders and hurriedly answered all of their questions, eager to get in the car to open the box. Like a kid on Christmas, I just wanted to open the box and see what kind of owl it was.

When I got back to my car with the box my kid excitedly began to pepper me with questions, “Is it an EASO? Is it okay? How hurt is it?”

So we slowly picked up the lid and peeked into the box, it wasn’t an EASO. It was a Barred Owl, a very small barred owl.In the raptor world, the females are larger and the males are smaller. Looking at my kid, “It’s a barred owl, a BDOW. Congrats it’s a boy!”

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“He is sooooo cute!” She exclaimed in a teary voice.

“Alright, we have to run by Walmart real quick and then we’ll head back and check him in,” I told her since I was already in town might as well pick up supplies I can’t get where I live.

She nodded seriously, “Sounds like a plan.”

Never take a six-year-old to Walmart. Every single item that had Frozen on it we had to stop and look at it. Though the experience took a strange turn when I finally got annoyed and firmly said, “We have to hurry we have an owl in the car.”

“Oh yeah!” She remembered. “And he is soooo cute!”

The man standing next to us looked over curious. Guess, he doesn’t hear that excuse too often.

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We finish our shopping and start to head back to the wildlife center. About five minutes into the drive she leaned up to the passenger seat where the box was. Noticing the black shirt on top of the box for the first time she asked, “That’s his shirt, right?”

Nodding, “Right, he didn’t have anything to catch the owl with at the time he found the owl. So he used his shirt to catch the owl, and now the shirt is keeping the box closed.”

She paused, thinking for a moment, I could tell we were in for another long drive. “Well, I guess it’s a good thing he took off his shirt! Right?”

Nodding again, “Right, it’s a good thing.”

“It’s a good thing his wife didn’t take her shirt off, right?”

Nodding, “Right.”

The gears in her head were slowly turning and then she had vomit of the mouth and spit out everything in a string of rapid thoughts and questions. “Because girls can’t take off their shirts in public because they have private parts on their chest, but boys can because they don’t have private parts on their chest, but they do have nipples, just no private parts, but boys should still keep their shirts on even though they don’t have private parts.”

Struggling not to fall apart laughing and  trying to stay focused on the icy road in front of me, I simply said, “Right, everyone should just keep their shirts on.”

Nodding, she matter of factly agreed with me, “Right, keep your shirt on.”

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We’re giving the owl fluids in this picture because he was dehydrated. 

Arriving at the center we didn’t find any major injuries but he did appear slightly neurologic. Which is common for owls hit by a car. To keep my kid entertained throughout the boring process of paperwork for a new patient and the exam I handed her my phone. Big mistake! When I finally got it back I had almost fifty photos of me and my co-worker checking in the owl.

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So yesterday I remembered this when I was down at the center yesterday and I took some photos and a video of the owl for my kid. When I showed the video of the owl flying she got excited because the owl couldn’t fly when we first got the owl.

“He’s just soooo cute! And look he’s flying!” She took off skidding across the floor with my phone. Cringing I hoped she didn’t drop my already cracked phone. “Mommy! Mommy! Look my owl is flying now! The BDOW can FLY!”

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My phone still clutched in her hand she began to flap her ‘wings’ emulating an owl.

BDOW Flight

I only wish that I could bottle up her enthusiasm and passion for saving the world one owl at a time and dose all of the people I encounter who lack sympathy for the world.

Backup Backup Plan

Owls are a master of defense when danger occurs. It is almost comical watching a small owl trying to appear bigger and intimidating.  Screech-owls are so good at defense that they have a backup for their backup backup plan.

Here’s how to defend yourself from an attacker like a screech-owl:

Plan A: First when a predator or attacker first spots you, stick up your ear tufts and suck in your body to appear really skinny. Then simply lean into the tree… there’s nothing here but a tree! If said tree is unavailable simply skinny yourself and sit completely still. Oh and don’t forgot to squint your eyes! Eyes that big will give you away but you don’t want to close your eyes and become blind to the oncoming attack.

hiding
Image from http://travel.nationalgeographic.com

Plan B: Darnnit Plan A wasn’t enough to deter the attacker time to pull out the bigger than life trick. This involves puffing yourself up twice as big and swaying back and forth. While you slay you must clack your beak and hiss loudly. Though some shy owls skip this step and jump straight to Plan C.

Bean and Oz, two of our Eastern Screech Owl ambassadors. See how big Bean is puffed up? Oz is only slightly puffed up. Bean is new and still learning that we aren’t going to hurt him.

Plan C: The attacker is still heading straight for you! Quick utter the terrifying screech that you are so famous for! Many have compared this sound to the scream of a mountain lion or a baby crying in terrible distress.

red-easo-peeking_zps8qupfaoi Red Eastern Screech Owl, who has thankfully completed his parasite treatment and is preparing for release!

Plan D: Some attackers are not frightened by their dinner screaming at them, now’s the time to perform your most important acting role of your life. Drop dead! Well, pretend you are dead. This trick always works, who wants dinner that has disappeared, grew bigger, screeched, and then died?

Brown Eastern Screech-owl is very unhappy to be in rehabilitation. If only we could tell him that we aren’t the bad guys!

Now if you follow all of these steps you will ensure your survival as a very small owl in a very big world. Remember you must go through all of these steps in less than a minute for it to have optimal results.

Eastern Screech Owl