Barred Owl #19-0022

January 10, 2019
April 17, 2019
Rescue Location
Tazewell County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Hit by vehicle
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On January 4, an adult Barred Owl was hit by a truck in Tazewell County, Virginia. The bird was taken to the Southwest Virginia Wildlife Center of Roanoke where it was stabilized before it was transferred to the Wildlife Center on January 10 and admitted as patient #19-0022.

The owl sustained injuries to both eyes, which is a common injury when owls are struck by vehicles. The owl’s left eye was badly damaged and painful; the right eye had some trauma including a retinal tear. The bird was thin and dehydrated. Radiographs revealed some muscle loss near the bird’s left shoulder, though no fractures or dislocations were seen.

The veterinary team started the bird on a course of medicated eye drops and scheduled the bird for surgery to remove the damaged left eye. On January 18, vet student Katie and Dr. Karra took the owl to surgery to perform an evisceration of the left eye. During this type of surgery, the contents of the eye were surgically removed. This is different from an “enucleation”, where the entire globe is removed. With evisceration, the basic shape of the screech-owl’s face will stay more symmetrical, and the missing eye will likely be less noticeable. The advantages of this surgery are that the bird’s face is better balanced to maintain shape, the surgery is shorter, and there is a decreased risk of affecting the sight in the remaining eye.

The owl recovered well and was moved to a small outdoor enclosure on January 29, then to a larger flight pen on February 18. The bird has not been eating well while at the Center; the rehabilitation team found that the owl prefers to eat live prey, rather than the dead mice and/or rats that are provided to recovering patients. The owl is currently being housed with another Barred Owl patient, #19-0076; they are hopeful that perhaps owl #19-0022 will want to eat dead prey after observing its new owl roommate.

Barred Owl #19-0022 will need to remain at the Center until mid-April, due to the healing injuries in its right eye. The staff will carefully observe how the bird flies and maneuvers during the next month until it’s time to start the bird on daily exercise and monitoring.

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Patient Updates

Throughout early April, Barred Owl #19-0022 was exercised daily in a flight pen in preparation for release. The bird was able to fly silently and had excellent stamina; pre-release blood work and a final exam were scheduled mid-month to clear the bird for release.

Typically, the rehabilitation staff put nearly-ready-to-be-released raptors through “mouse school”; this live-prey testing is an essential part of raptor rehabilitation since it ensures that recovered patient is able to hunt for its own food. In this owl’s case, staff weren’t overly concerned about the owl’s ability to hunt, since early on in the rehabilitation process, the Barred Owl showed a strong preference for eating live prey in its enclosure.

On April 17, the owl was sent back to Roanoke, to be released near where it was initially rescued.

After recent repairs were made to a number of flight pens during the past week, a space opened up in the A1 flight enclosure. On March 26, the rehabilitation staff moved Barred Owl #19-0022 to A1 so that the bird could begin exercise. Due to the owl’s eye injuries, the bird has been placed on an “ocular hold” until April 15, which is three months after its admission date. By keeping the bird for three months and continuing to monitor the owl’s eye, the staff will be able to definitively know if the injuries are stable and resolved prior to release.

Barred Owl #19-0022 will begin a daily exercise procedure on March 27. Once the owl is flying well and has good stamina, the owl will go through live prey testing – though since this owl showed an early preference for eating live food, the staff aren’t overly concerned about the bird’s ability to hunt!

Barred Owls #19-0022 and #19-0076 have been doing well for the past two weeks; while the owls generally don’t appear to perch close to one another, they are tolerating sharing the same space, and both owls are eating well.

On Sunday, March 10, the owls were moved back to a C-pen enclosure due to the start of replacing the roof of Flight Pens 4-6. The construction team hopes that they’ll complete that project by the end of this week or by early next week; the owls will then be moved back to a flight pen.