Monday, December 20, 2010

I released our last baby great horned owl (no longer a baby, trust me) last night at a public event. It is always a joyous thing and at this time of year it seemed even more joyful. The setting was lovely…trees surrounded an open area, perfect for roosting, resting and raiding the fridge, so to speak. When I retrieved the feisty great horned owl from the box, it was heartening for me to see what a great job we had done….this baby was ready to go and didn’t try to pretend anything else. Tufts back, eyes orb-like, talons flexed…..

I always make this kind of event an opportunity to educate, and it never ceases to amaze me how receptive a group can be. The questions are almost always the same….what kind of owl is it; how did you get it; what was wrong with it; how long have you had it; how do you know it is ready for release, etc? It is the perfect springboard for talking about the adaptations of the species, about the part they play in the greater scheme of things, about why we should care, and what we can do to make things better for them.

This time was a little different. There were the usual question, but there was also hue and cry from the mostly female group concerned about more intimate kinds of things like….does she know how to get food, find a mate, know where to sleep tonight, and is she scared? I assured them that we had done everything possible to prepare this orphan for the hard and cruel world….She was with foster parents of her same species from the moment she was brought in to us. She was with others of her own species all of the time. She was in with foster parents who were flighted so that she could learn as much about flying as she could in a flight cage. Eventually she was allowed to take live prey similar to her needs in the wild, and to prove that she could be successful on her own…no one to help her. And, she was allowed to be as wild as is possible with the cards dealt to her.

When I took her from the box, I had no doubt that she had passed all of the tests. Even under the ideal scenario of being raised in the wild by wild parents, things are tough on first year birds. So, with wishes from the group for a long life and many babies, she was released into a full moon night… at last, and if beaks could smile I am sure she was grinning ear-to-ear. And that would be a very big grin!

I was and always am impressed by the amount of compassion people ooze when they have participated in this once in a life time experience. I am pretty sure no one at this event will ever look at a great horned owl in the same way, and I am definitely sure that they will act on the behalf of wildlife if ever given an opportunity!

I want to take this moment to wish all of you and your families the very best holiday season yet…..and to thank each of you for your compassion on behalf of our wildlife neighbors. It is you who give me hope and make me joyous.

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