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Three Rescued and Rehabilitated Great Horned Owls Are Forever Wild Again

October 13, 2010

After more than five months of rehabilitation and care at the Alabama Wildlife Center (AWC), three great horned owls were released back into the wild today. The three birds, admitted separately at AWC for care in spring of this year, were released at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, a property purchased by the Forever Wild Program in 2004 and operated by the Southern Environmental Center.

Each of the owls had different injuries and was cared for by the AWC staff and volunteers until they were deemed healthy and developed enough to survive on their own in the wild. The preparation for their release included testing their hunting of live prey to assure they would be able to successfully feed themselves once released.

The first bird was rescued in Childersburg, Ala., on April 10, 2010. Mostly covered with down, its primary flight feathers were still only half-emerged. Upon examination by Dr. Carl Grimmet of Grayson Valley Animal Clinic, puncture wounds were found on the birdís right wing at the shoulder area, likely due to a dog attack. Dr. Grimmet sutured the wounds and the bird was transported by volunteers to AWC for rehabilitation. Treatment at AWC included antibiotics and wound management.

The second great horned owl arrived at AWC on April 29, 2010, from a Tennessee rehabber who does not have the caging to accommodate such a large developing predator. This was a healthy juvenile that likely became separated from its parents and was unable to be reunited.

The third owl was found on the side of the road in Huntsville, Ala., on May 19, 2010. It was suspected that a car had hit the juvenile. This bird had some down present and primary flight feathers were three-fourths emerged. Trained AWC volunteer transporters safely delivered the bird to AWC. An examination revealed no major injuries, but the nest site was unknown making it impossible to reunite the bird with its parents.

Eventually all three juvenile owls were housed together in an outdoor enclosure with two convalescing adults, who functioned as role models for the young owls. AWC estimates that the food cost for these three great horned owls is about $10 a day, which adds up quickly over an extended stay and doesnít include the costs of exams, x-rays, lab work, medicine, shelter, etc.

The release site at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve was chosen because it offers an ideal natural habitat for these birds of prey. The preserve contains some of the most biologically diverse habitats in this region of Alabama.

Forever Wild purchased the 462 acres of mixed pine and hardwood forest that comprises Turkey Creek Nature Preserve in 2004. The waters of Turkey Creek are home to three endangered species of fish: the vermilion darter, the watercress darter and the rush darter. The preserve is co-managed by the State Lands Division and the Southern Environmental Center. The property is located at 3906 Turkey Creek Road in Pinson, Ala. Hours of operation are posted on gates and kiosks.

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