He had cut the owl free but didn’t know how long it had been struggling or how severely it was injured. Since it was late, we made arrangements for him to let the owl rest overnight with him and then he dropped it by my house early the next morning for me to bring to the Center. The next morning I discovered it was a small male Great Horned Owl and that he was pretty grouchy about being in captivity.
Upon examination, Animal Care staff discovered minor abrasions and a sprained leg and wing from struggling while tangled in the netting. We wanted to give him a couple days to recover, but we were also concerned to get him released to origin as soon as possible.
Why would we send him back to the area where his injuries had occurred? First of all, raptors are territorial and that was his territory. Also, if he had a mate, she would be sitting on their babies to keep them warm. As the male in the family, he would be expected to do most of the hunting for her and the babies in addition to himself. While he was here we had several warm nights so hopefully mom could safely leave the babies for a short while to hunt.
On Sunday, March 14th after work, I drove Mr. Great Horned (as we lovingly referred to this stout little guy during his stay) back home. There was a long gravel driveway to a ridge that dropped away towards the property where I parked my vehicle. He was footing (grabbing with his talons) the door in his excitement by this time. I opened the door, he took one hop onto the road, then threw out his wings and flung himself into the air.
He soared off the ridge, down over the valley, past a pond and landed in a tree to get his bearings. It was so beautiful to see him fly off into the sunset. I hope he got back to his mate in time to help care for his young - Although I do wonder just how he will explain his absence of several nights to his mate. “Really, honey, I was hunting for mice and this stuff grabbed me. And then these aliens abducted me and took me somewhere and performed medical procedures on me…”