Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bounty of Barreds

It's that time of year again when the snow flies, the temperatures dip, and the barred owls come in droves to VINS. While the snow and colder weather make for a winter wonderland, they also put many animals in the wild to the ultimate test of survival.

When the snow piles up, it's harder for animals to find food. First-year birds -- meaning those born this spring and summer -- may not have honed their hunting skills, and snow upon the ground doesn't help. Without successful hunts, raptors such as the barred owl may become weak due to hunger, and a weak bird has a much greater of chance of sustaining injuries while on the prowl. Many such owls -- first years and adults -- are admitted to VINS suffering from head trauma or broken bones after being struck by a car. They are more easily struck by a car while flying over a road when they are weak. While we treat the head trauma and fractures, we often find ourselves treating starvation and emaciation as well.

Above, Sara Eisenhauer of VINS hand-feeds a barred owl in rehabilitation chopped mice. Above right, the owl prepares to eat a mouse.

One of the five barred owls we currently have in our care is just such a case. He was admitted to VINS Wildlife Services on December 11, weak, thin and with signs of head trauma from a vehicle collision. While we began the owl on fluids, he is now able to digest chopped mice. This owl is progressing nicely in our rehab department, and will likely be eating whole mice and other rodents on his own soon. He is a likely candidate for release back into the wild.

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