On September 28 I entered a large, outdoor enclosure here at PAWS and came face to face with a bright, alert and active Barred Owl. He stared at me with with his intense, dark eyes and for a moment he seemed to grow larger as he puffed out his feathers in an attempt to intimidate me. Calling his bluff, I continued into the cage, closing the door behind me. The owl responded by taking flight and retreating to the back of his cage.
I first met this owl more than two weeks earlier on September 9. At the time he was in shock and barely aware of his surroundings. He had been brought to PAWS after he was found alongside a road in nearby Mukilteo. Owls and other birds of prey often hunt in the short grass alongside roads and in the median strip. Focused on potential prey, they sometimes swoop low across the road and do not see an oncoming vehicle until it is too late. Such was the case with this Barred Owl, and his collision with a vehicle had caused serious head trauma as well as a badly fractured scapula (shoulder blade). The break is evident in the radiograph of the bird below.
During his stay at PAWS Wildlife Center, the owl received top-notch care. Our wildlife rehabilitators treated him for shock when he first arrived and provided him with supportive care during his convalescence. PAWS wildlife veterinarians treated the owl's injuries and performed physical therapy on his wing as it healed to ensure that it maintained its full range of motion. A veterinary ophthalmologist donated his time to examine the Barred Owl's eyes and ensure that his vision was not impaired. All of this care and attention was working toward a single goal, retruning the Barred Owl to full function so he could return to his life in the wild.
On October 14, the owl's time at PAWS came to an end and he resumed his life in a small wooded area in Mukilteo. Autumn and Julie, the two women who had rescued the bird from the roadside, were present to see the final result of their caring act. After the carrier door was opened, the owl hesitated for several minutes, perhaps wary of the humans waiting breathlessly for him to exit. Eventually he jumped out through the open doorway and flew up into the branches of a nearby cedar tree. We all watched him for a while as he assessed his surroundings, and then we left him to enjoy his newfound freedom in peace.