Lead Wildlife Keeper
It wasn't surprising that our first patient of 2015 was a Barred Owl. With 50 Barred Owls admitted as patients in 2014, the majority of which were received during the late fall and early winter months, we've become accustomed to providing care for these most common New England owls.
It's been a tough winter for Barred Owls, with many finding themselves in the path of a car during their pursuits for food. Patient 15-001, our first of 2015, was no exception. We don't know conclusively that he was struck by a car, but his injuries and the location in which he was found lead us to believe he had a "run-in" with a vehicle. During his initial exam, we found that he had sustained an injury to his coracoid - a bone which connects the shoulder to the sternum. He had a lot of swelling not only in his shoulder, but also throughout his body. He had a generally "puffy" appearance, dried blood caked around his nares, and very wet, raspy sounds in his breathing, which indicates fluid or blood in his lungs - all signs of internal trauma.
We splinted and immobilized his wing, gave him medications for pain and inflammation, and also gave him fluids to address dehydration. Birds heal quickly, and within two weeks, his fracture had developed a solid callous - an indication that the fracture site was stable and mended. After another few weeks of exercise and flight training to build up the muscles in his injured wing, we determined that he was ready for a final test before being returned to the wild: a live prey test. To pass this test, a raptor must capture a live mouse - he must be able to locate and successfully maneuver in a large outdoor enclosure to catch his prey.
Barred Owl 15-001 passed this test with ease. We said farewell to him 52 days after his initial admission to our facility, and we are confident he will thrive in the wild. His release was an immense success, with a strong flight to a high branch in a tree where he could survey his territory.