Aggressive owl that made The Union’s police blotter captured by wildlife rehabbers | TheUnion.com

Aggressive owl that made The Union’s police blotter captured by wildlife rehabbers

Submitted to The Union

A police blotter item spotted in The Union has spurred the rescue of a young, apparently human-raised, owl.

On July 18, a man from Vista Avenue called to report a shockingly aggressive owl. The caller said the bird drove he and his wife back into the house. He said he and the owl were making eye contact earlier. The 911 call subsequently made its way into the police blotter compiled daily in The Union.

Seeing this paragraph in the newspaper immediately prompted Kim Franza, raptor team coordinator with Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release to start a search for the owl. After several attempts by Franza and others from the organization, the owl was captured and taken to the organization's raptor clinic in Penn Valley.

"We talked to many people in the neighborhood and they had been feeding the owl for weeks," Franza said. "It was fed raw meatballs, raw chicken, bacon and frozen mice. The owl has been landing right at the feet of residents or on their outside chairs and tables while they are present and even looking into their windows begging for food. I suspect it is a first-year great horned owl because he is still doing the call for food as he would make to his parents. This call sounds like a whistle. After talking with many of the residents, there's a good chance he might injure someone if he was not fed. These owls have lethal talons and beak."

According to Franza, several residents said someone in the area found the owl as a nestling and took care of it until recently when he released it, thinking it would be fine.

"Owl parents normally feed their chicks until mid-September in our area," she said. "This owl, having only been hand fed by a person and not knowing any other way to find food, will never stop begging from people. This is called developing a 'hard imprint' on people, which means he may never live on his own in the wild. He never learned to hunt."

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Franza said it is ill-advised, and illegal, to raise any wild bird or animal without proper training and certification.

"If you do find an orphaned baby animal or bird, please contact Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release," she said. "We have had extensive training on how to raise orphaned raptors such as this owl, songbirds, bats, and small mammals. And we have attended rigorous trainings, are permitted by both the state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, and have a large network of fellow wildlife rescue organizations in the state."

The young owl is now in the care of Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release. Volunteers will be working with the owl to see if they can reverse the imprinting, but it may never be able to return to the wild.

"We are in contact with several wildlife facilities that showcase native raptors in a caring and healthy environment when they can't be released," Franza said. "This may be the best future for this young owl. And it is an example of what happens if a wild animal imprints on a human, I'm sad to say."

Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release is a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and releases native birds and mammals back into the wild. It is an all-volunteer organization that depends on donations to provide for the food, medication, and shelter for injured or orphaned animals. If you find a wild bird or animal in need of help, contact WR&R's 24-hour hotline at 530-432-5522. The Intake Center is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through the end of August and is located across the street from Taco Bell, next to Walkers Office Supplies in the Brunswick Basin, Grass Valley. Or for more information, see http://www.cawildlife911.org.

Source: Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release