By Jen Mannas, Naturalist
On June 30th we received a small surprise at the Wildlife Center; a fluffy baby barn owl.
When he arrived he was small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, weighed just over 2 ounces, and his eyes were still closed.
The finder brought him to us after repeatedly trying to reunite him with his mother, who was sitting in a nest box made of steel beams 14 feet up in the top of a horse arena.
After the third fall from the nest, she decided to bring him to PAWS for help.
We typically try to reunite young raptors with their parents as quickly as possible, as it's always better for them to be raised by their parents. But, in some circumstances, this isn’t possible.
After talking to the finder about the nest site, it was clear that putting the owlet back again would not help his survival. The nest was not in a great location and another owlet had already fallen from the nest but did not survive.
So, we decided to care for this owlet with the intention to release him back into the wild as a sub-adult.
Raising a baby raptor is no easy task. Staff members became his surrogate parents, feeding him several times a day.
He spent the first few weeks of his life in our bird nursery allowing us to monitor his progress and growth.
When he was feeding on his own and big enough to walk around, he was moved outside to his own enclosure.
His care and feeding was then the responsibility of our volunteers who wore a sheet when they entered his enclosure to keep him from becoming habituated.
Habituated animals become gradually used to situations they would normally steer away from. This type of behavior is dangerous for both humans and the animal.
If an animal becomes too used to people or depends on them for food they could become nuisances or dangerous to humans and in turn jeopardizing the animal itself.
It is very important that the animals at our Wildlife Center do not become habituated, so they can return to the wild and be active members of their population.
Our staff and volunteers did a great job with this little owl. He acted just like a wild barn owl should by showing threat displays and flying around when people entered his enclosure.
After 87 days in our care and weighing in at 1.2 pounds, he was deemed ready for release.
Just after sunset on September 25th, he was returned to an area near the horse arena where he hatched. When we left him he was perched in a small tree waiting to hunt under the shadow of night.
Watch his first few moments of freedom:
Follow us on Instagram for more great behind the scenes moments.
Join us on the frontline of wildlife care and rehabilitation - volunteer at PAWS.
Make a donation and help us continue providing a safe haven for wildlife at PAWS.
Found a wild animal? Find out what to do and how PAWS can help.