A Winter’s Tale -The rescue and release of a Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

The Rescue

It’s not every day that a Great Horned Owl gets in trouble and is rescued before more adversity strikes. Thanks to a well-mannered dog named Jax and his watchful owner Al Jueneman, this raptor will fly again after being fixed up at the Raptor Center.

On their daily walk in Wirth Park near the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in mid-February 2014, Jax and Al found this downed injured owl who had some form of eye injury. Al called the Rescue People from the Raptor Center and they came out and secured the owl. Its mate called and called after it. When all is well again, the owl will be brought back to Wirth Park and released and hopefully reunited with its mate.

Great Horned Owls have made their home in and near the Wildflower Garden from many decades. Former Gardener Ken Avery wrote in the winter of 1973: “One old friend that gave me a fright last year is back, however, and seems to be ready to stay -- our Great Horned Owl. Last year I saw him a few times in late fall and then not one more time all winter. I was afraid the greatly expanded winter use of the area might have discouraged this shy bird and that he had secured more remote lodgings, but he is back as usual this winter.”

In 1975 he followed up with this report: “Another thing that is happening is that the Great Horned Owl is busy having a family again. This may seem like a strange time to be sitting on a clutch of eggs but it is the time that the Great Horned Owl picks. I would think it would be a little uncomfortable, and I must say when I saw her half covered with snow she didn’t have a terribly happy expression on her face’ but she has no one to blame but herself. This is the third year in a row that we have been aware of the owl nesting in the area. I have no way of knowing if one nested there for the last 20 years, but since we have found it for the last three years and never did before, I wonder if during those high D.D.T. years they did manage to nest or if we simply managed to miss it.”

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Great Horned Owl rescue

The Release

On the sunny Saturday of May 3, 2014 the Great Horned Owl was released into her home territory from the same spot where she had been found. The injury to the female’s eye had completely healed, there were no blind spots, so she could be released. In the photos below the sequence of events is as follows: At first she did not want to come out of the travel box. The representative from the Raptor Center had to tilt the box and tap on the back side. Then she poked her head out as to say “Where am I? After another 15 seconds she came out, crouched down, looked over the terrain and immediately lifted her wings and shot off into the far trees. Also pictured below is Al’s dog Jax who first spotted the injured owl.

owl release Owl rescue step 2owl rescue step3Jax the hero