A great horned owl was found shot near Santa Paula during November of last year, and a few days ago, it was finally healed enough to be released back into the wild where it belongs.
As reported by VC Star, getting the owl the help that it needed after such a tragic discovery was a team effort. Sergio Gutierrez, a Santa Paula Police Officer, corralled the owl. Following that, Nikki Ruhl, a veterinary technician with the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center (SPARC), gathered up the injured bird. Ruhl then brought the owl to the Ojai Raptor Center for specialized care. Once there, a staff veterinarian, Dr. Stephany Lewis, discovered that the bird had three pellets inside it: one in her chest, the other in her leg, and the third having broken the ulna bone in her wing. On top of that, the pellets left the owl suffering from led poisoning.
The treatment for this injury was not an easy one. "After treatment in the raptor center's intensive care unit, the adult owl moved to an outdoor enclosure where she had several weeks of flight time in a large aviary," write VC Star. A senior staff member at the center said she had never seen an owl with a gunshot wound. It is more likely to see shot hawks and vultures since they are active during the day, but great horned owls prefer hunting at twilight.
The owl weighed less than 3 pounds and was fully grown - at least three years old, though it's impossible to tell her age beyond that. Jaclyn DeSantis, senior staff member at the center, about returning the owl back into the wild, said: "She should be breeding right now. She should be at a nest."
The owl traveled with DeSantis in a bright blue cat carrier to the release site, and patiently waited outside the Ojai Raptor Center's van. They made sure to release the owl at dusk, when she would be protected from attacks by crows or ravens. You can see pictures of the owl as she was taken out of her cage, looking around and taking in her environment before finally taking off and disappearing in the trees.
We want to thank all the hard work done by everyone involved in this owl's story, you're doing an incredible job. For more stories of owls being released into the wild, click right here.