On Thursday October 28, a Great Horned Owl returned to her home on Whidbey Island after completing care at the PAWS Wildlife Center. It had been more than six weeks since she last flew free in her home territory. The owner of the property on which the owl was released had found the bird tangled in a soccer net on September 10. In her struggle to free herself, the owl had injured her left wing. The property owner and her son cut the owl free and brought her to PAWS for care.
The leading edge of the owl’s left wing had been cut and deeply scraped by the netting in which she had been entangled. The injury looked relatively minor, but if it healed improperly scar tissue could form that would reduce the owl’s range of movement in that wing. To avoid that possibility, PAWS Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. John Huckabee checked on the owl daily during her first week of care and made sure that the wound site stayed clean and the skin stayed flexible. As it became clear that the wound was healing well, the checkups were reduced in frequency, but the bird was still monitored closely for any sign of complications. Fortunately, none developed.
The Great Horned Owl wasted little time exiting her carrier at her release. A nearby Steller’s Jay began to sound an alarm as the owl appeared and many other small songbirds quickly joined in. The owl paid them little attention as she flew to a branch in a nearby fir tree and began to assess her surroundings. Her flight from transport carrier to fir branch was flawless, and her landing was very graceful. We could see no sign of any lingering ill effects from her unfortunate soccer net encounter. As darkness fell we left her alone to enjoy her newfound freedom.