Just as Wildlife Baby Season starts, the recent chain of historically powerful storms in our region has caused an unprecedented number of downed trees — many of them host to nesting sites for wild animals!
This fuzzy nestling Great Horned Owl was seen sitting alone on the ground along a bike path in a local park frequented by cyclists, hikers, and dog walkers. Luckily, the person who spotted him knew exactly whom to call, because they’d gotten help from Craig Nikitas of Bay Raptor Rescue before!
It wasn’t long before Craig was on the scene and the baby raptor was secured in a comfortable, dark box for transport to WildCare.
As an experienced raptor rescuer, Craig knows that a reunite with parents is always the best option for a displaced baby owl, so he took time to search the area for signs of nest sites or parents.
Usually, when a baby owl falls from the nest, it’s possible to discern which tree it came from, and finding the nest is just a matter of getting up there. Unfortunately, in this case, downed trees and piles of broken branches were everywhere in sight and crews were already busy removing the debris in truckloads.
Craig knew the chances of reuniting this nestling with his family would be slim to none.
Successfully raising a Great Horned Owl from a fluffy nestling to an adult predator who is ready to compete in the wild is no small feat; we’ve got our work cut out for us! Luckily, this little one is a great eater.
Knowing we’d likely be in it for the long-haul, Hungry Owl Project Manager Jacqueline Lewis is using a taxidermied adult Great Horned Owl as a stand-in parent and donning a shape-camouflaging ghillie suit during feedings to prevent the orphaned owl from imprinting on his human caretakers.
Watch this little owlet being fed in the video above.
Although our experienced Med Staff and foster carers are up for the challenge, we are still looking into creative ways to get this baby back to the wild sooner than later!
With help from our amazing Raptor Reunite Team there may be the possibility of what we call “wild adoption,” wherein owl parents with an active nest of youngsters the same age will adopt an orphaned baby, as long as all the circumstances align just right.
If an appropriate adoptive nest can't be found, we will network with other wildlife care centers in our area to find another baby Great Horned with which to place this baby. WildCare never raises wildlife babies alone. In that scenario, this owlet will grow up in care until he's old enough to be released back to the wild.
Stay tuned for updates on this little owl’s progress.
Become a Monthly Member and help WildCare care for baby owls and all the orphaned animals that will need our care this spring! Your monthly gift in any amount will make a real difference to our ability to treat and care for the thousands of wildlife orphans that will arrive at our doors in the next months!
Story, photos and video by Dion Campbell, Wildlife Services Manager and Social Media Coordinator