A Story Of A Family Of Owls
This is the time of year when young Great Horned Owls leave the nest for the first time, a term called fledging. Keep in mind that the mother has incubated the eggs for 35 days and the young owls (owlets) have been on their nests for between 6 and 10 weeks depending on the nest site. During this time the male owl has been taking care of his family, delivering food to the female while she has been incubating, and also delivering food to as she fed the young.
Female Great Horned Owls can incubate the eggs and brood the young when the temperature is well below freezing, as long as the male can deliver enough food to her. The male’s job is very important even after the young, fledge. Just as with human children, the role of the father (owl) is a very important part of the rearing of the young owls. Some studies suggest that the young male owls learn how to make that distinctive hooting, that Great Horned Owls make, from their father.
When the Great Horned Owl young have begun moving about their territory, the food demands on the parents exponentially increase. Now the owlets that have been sitting on the nest doing very little; are now mobile and even more hungry, much like a child that has been out playing all day, versus one that just sits in the house watching TV.
Last week, I received a call from an Estes Park resident who found a Great Horned Owl on their property that couldn’t fly. I was hoping that it was a fledging owl (owlet) that was on the ground away from it’s parents. Well it turned out to be an adult male owl with an injured wing. I picked up the bird and examined both wings and determined the bird to have a dislocated elbow.
I went over to Dr. Grant Spencer of Spencer Family Chiropractic, to see if he might be able to assist with the owl by putting the elbow back into place. He agreed that the owl had a dislocated elbow and tried to put the elbow back in place but had no luck.
The following day Grant tried again to put the elbow back in place but still couldn’t so I gave a call to Dr. Jeff Fish of the Animal Medical Center. Dr. Fish was nice enough to allow me to bring the owl over to his office to have an x-ray taken. What we found was truly disturbing. The owl had a badly dislocated elbow that had some calcification around the joint. This wasn’t the disturbing part… the disturbing part was that the owl had a BB lodged in the center of his chest not far from his heart. We could see the BB plain as day sitting in the center of the chest of the owl.
What I presume happened is that someone (and I am not using the expletive that I would like to use) had shot the owl and the owl hit the ground with such force as to dislocated its elbow. The poor bird must have been on the ground for several days unable to fly, feed its family or feed itself, because the owl was quite thin. Being on the ground, the elbow solidified in such a way that it could not open nor close well enough for the bird to ever fly again. With the help of Dr. Fish, the decision was made to put the owl to sleep.
Now again keep in mind that the female owl is going to have to finish raising her young by herself, which means she has to do the work of two. Imagine one night you’re at home with your mother and brother or sister, waiting for your father to come home with supper. Yet he never returns… how would you feel? Someone knows who shot that owl and is now making that single mother owl do the work of two. If anyone knows who shot and subsequently killed that owl please, contact Rick Spowart of the division of wildlife at either 290-2427 or 586-4000 and leave a message.
Scott Rashid, Director of CARRI
P.O. Box 3351 Estes Park, CO 80517.