Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Owl that keeps hooting

September 14, 2011, started out like any other day, the Conservation Areas were wrapping up the summer season and we were getting ready to ready another fall season, when staff at ChristieLake CA received a call from a local resident regarding a Great Horned Owl sitting on a hiking path in the middle of the woods. Bruce Harschnitz the Superintendent of Christie Lake, gave me a call in hopes that something could be done to help this owl. After arriving at Christie Lake CA, it was clear the owl was in distress and appeared lethargic. 
Great Horned Owl

After some discussion and debate we decided the best thing to do was to contact the Owl Foundation (Located in Vineland Station, ON), to see if they could accommodate a seemingly ailing owl. The owl foundation is a registered charitable organization that focuses on helping and rehabilitating injured, diseased or starving Canadian owl species.

With the help of a few other colleagues we were able to capture the owl and placed it in a well ventilated box, and prepare to take the owl on a road trip to the foundation so it could receive the care it needed. I got to be the lucky person who had the privilege of holding onto the box while we drove. 

Great Horned Owl
The car ride was quite the journey, as we drove down the highway, the car was completely silent, accept for the periodic “hoot” from the box. I talked to the owl in hopes we would both stay calm,  but when he managed to poke his head out of the box to see what was going on, I was startled! Imagining him coming out of the box and flying around the car! It turned out he just wanted to figure out what was going on, and tucked himself back into the box, and  let out anther “hoot”,  which I assumed meant he would not do that again.  

After arriving at the foundation, the employees met me in the drive way, then proceed inside the facility.  I held onto the owl while the employee conducted a quick assessment. I said my good-byes to the owl and thanked him for making my "normal" workday that little bit more exciting. Upon leaving I left my contact information, and was informed I would receive a call from the foundation with an update as soon as they had one.

On Tuesday September 11, 2012 while at my desk, during another "normal" work day,  I received a phone call from the Owl Foundation. (by this time I thought  sadly the owl did not make a recovery). I was overjoyed to hear the owl had gained a full recovery and was ready to be released back into nature. 

Staff at the foundation, informed me that the owl had suffered major trauma to his beak, which kept him from feeding, eventually leading him to be emaciated. The staff cared for the owl, providing much needed fluids and food, with every passing day the owl became stronger flying and hunting mice within its enclosure.

The Owl Foundation decided the time had come to release the owl back to the wild, at the same spot it was orginally found. The release party was held on Friday September 14, 2012 at Christie Lake CA, with an invitation to everyone involved in the recovery process.  At the release party, Jane, (from the Owl Foundation) selected an open area with nearby trees, so the owl may take cover quickly. The box opened and the owl poked his head out quickly, then off he flew to a tree close by. It was an experience that will forever stay with me, and close to my heart. Whenever I am at Christie Lake CA, in the futrue I will look for the Great Horned owl that received a second chance to soar through the trees. 

Lisa Jennings 
Aquatic Ecologist
Hamilton Conservation Authority

HCA would like to thank everyone involved, especially the local resident who first noticed the frail owl and the Owl Foundation that no doubt saved this owls life. Without the dedication of this organization, owls injured, diseased would not have a second chance. The tireless effort and compassion from the staff at the foundation is astounding, we are very fortunate to have a organization like in the area.

Please visit the Owl Foundation website for more information about the organization and how you can help

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