Thursday, December 20, 2012

Owl Snagged On Barbed Wire Fence

Photo courtesy Wildlife Center Silicon Valley

Early Wednesday afternoon, we received an emergency call about an owl caught on a barbed wire fence near Santa Teresa County Park, south of San Jose, CA.

Just minutes after sending out an alert to our volunteer responders, we received a callback from Valerie Baldwin. Valerie has been involved in wildlife rehabilitation for more than 25 years and specializes in raptors. She currently volunteers with the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley (WCSV) and is part of their Raptor Team. 

Before heading out the door, Valerie thought to put in a call to her friend Lee Pauser, who lives near the park and could be on scene more quickly than she.

Lee has been involved with Audubon's Cavity Nester's Recovery Program since 2002 after retiring from IBM. He monitors and maintains hundreds of bird nest boxes along trails in Southern Santa Clara County and works with WCSV on wild-fostering and renesting healthy cavity nesters during 'baby season'. Lee had just finished installing a few new nest boxes when Valerie called.

Meanwhile, Andy, who initially spotted the owl along the Calero Creek Trail, was willing to go back to the location and keep watch until a rescuer arrived. He brought along his daughter, Rhianna, who ended up being a great help during the rescue.

Andy and daughter, Rhianna. Rhianna helped support the bird with a tree branch.

The owl was snagged on a barb. It probably happened in flight, as the bird was flying over the fence. It was hooked on the patagium - the membrane of skin that extends from a bird's shoulder to its wrist. To keep weight off the wing, Rhianna held a branch up to the owl's feet so it could stand.

Lee takes a closer look while Rhianna keep weight off the wing.
Once on scene, Lee quickly assessed the situation and, with the help of Andy, Rhiana, and Omar, a cyclist who stopped to help, they attempted to free the bird from the barb, but no luck. It was really embedded. The only way to free the bird was to cut the wire.

Once freed, the owl was placed into a cardboard box and immediately transported to the 

It took quite a bit of effort, but the barb was finally extracted. Once the wound were cleaned, veterinarians examined the wing and, thankfully, there were no broken bones. According to Rehabilitation Supervisor, Ashley Kinney, the owl was rescued just in time! 

Photo courtesy Wildlife Center Silicon Valley

With luck, the owl will recover quickly so it can be returned home soon. It's the start of breeding season for great horned owls. They don't build their own nests, but take previously used nests of other species, so, they have to get an early start on things. By now, many have paired up and are looking for suitable sites.

UPDATE: 12-21-12

According to WCSV, the owl's condition is still Guarded, but the wing is looking much better and the swelling is down. They will begin the owl on
 physical therapy to prevent its wing from 'freezing'.

UPDATE: 1-4-13

We received word today from WCSV that the GHOW is doing amazingly well. The dime-sized wound on his patagium is healing and they are starting to wean him off pain medications and wound treatment. Apparently, the owl is very feisty!


  1. Very nice work everyone! Sending my best wishes for the owl's recovery. All you wildlife carers are heroes! Happy Holiday to you!

  2. An inspiring story of wildlife rescue! Great job all.

  3. What a wonderful story. Hurray for Andy, Rhianna, Lee, Valerie, and Omar. Lee builds and monitors over a hundred nest boxes of various types on the adjacent IBM Research Almaden property and, in addition has been involved with WCSV in the release of several rehabbed owls in that area. That great horned owl was fortunate that Lee was nearby and could apply his considerable skills. Perhaps the owl will heal sufficiently to once more take to the air.

  4. Huge thanks to all involved - a nice reminder during this stressful time of year of what really matters.

  5. Just the right people to step up to the plate when needed....and we're out there. Probably (almost) everywhere. We need more networking, more wildlife emergency phone message fielding, more caring people trained in such emergency rescue work......The Lindsay Jr. Wildlife Center in Walnut Creek conducts some rehab. classes...where else can we learn ways to be useful First Responders?
    Ruth Feldman, Alamo, CA

  6. Always great to read this kind of stories. Thank you to all involved.