Feb 23, 2012

The little owl who thinks she's...

...not an owl. Very sad.

We received a call last week, from a family in Boulder Creek who found an owl - actually, it found them. According to the finder, the owl had been hanging around for a couple of days, and was acting peculiar - swaying back and forth and 'screaming', begging to be fed. At one point, it landed on the man's shoulder. Thankfully, neither the owl nor the human was harmed.

We responded immediately to check out the situation and found a young great horned owl on their porch. We collected the magnificent animal and placed her into a carrier for the night, feeding her a meal of warmed (frozen) rodents. She was transferred the next morning to a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center.

We believe this is the same owl that was reported in November, less than two miles away, acting unusually tame. Unfortunately, she is not only tame, but 'imprinted'.

Imprinting, is when a young animal learns to recognize its parent, and later, the desirable traits of a mate. In this case, the owl imprinted on its human caregivers, who probably thought they were doing the right thing. 

Wild animals must be raised wild - by wild parents. From their parents, young learn what to eat, where to forage, how to hunt, what to fear, where to hide and seek shelter, and they learn valuable social skills. Things that not even the greatest wildlife rehabilitator can provide. This why it is so important to reunite healthy young whenever possible - something WildRescue responders spend much of their time doing in spring and summer months!

Unfortunately, for this owl, it is too late - she does not know she is an owl - she responds to humans, and sadly, among humans she will remain - her wild life stolen from her, again, by someone probably thinking they were doing the right thing.

Had this owl been habituated, meaning, if she had simply become accustomed to humans, tolerating their presence, her behavior could be modified. 

Stay tuned for more on her progress in captivity.

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