A Great Horned Owl is recovering at a Lower Mainland rehabilitation centre after colliding with a windshield near 100 Mile House earlier this month.
Local wildlife photographer Murray Zelt, who is also a volunteer with Delta-based Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation (OWL), said his nephew Matt Pistell called him after he hit the owl on his way home from hockey. Pistell told him it hit the windshield so hard he thought it was going to smash the glass.
“When he picked it up it didn’t even seem like it was alive,” Zelt said. “And then it came to and he was freaking out and got hold of my sister who told him to get hold of me, being a volunteer for this rehab centre in Delta.”
Zelt said he has a pet carrier loaned to him by OWL for catching injured raptors although this is the first time in the past three years he has had a reason to use it. He said he has a fascination for owls and was awed when his nephew brought the bird to the house.
“It was so surreal.”
Zelt said it was touch and go at first as the owl had suffered head trauma. But after speaking with the rescue facility, he said the bird – he and his nephew called it Lucky – appears to be improving. The fear of bleeding in the head or internal injuries does not seem to be as much of a concern now, he said.
“It’s been eating which is really good news,” he said. “It didn’t eat the first day or two but maybe because of the shock and the head trauma, obviously I guess, and the lady said now it is eating mice, maybe two or three a day.”
The owl is also not happy with people coming near, which is good as they do not want it to become habituated.
“When (the rescue operator) goes near its enclosure it hisses and it starts getting agitated and moving around and giving her the eye.”
However, he said there is a concern the owl might be blind in the right eye as the pupil was oblong in shape rather than the normal circle. He’s also worried about her feet, as they are the Great Horned Owl’s most important weapon when hunting. He said Lucky is favouring one leg and may have a small fracture.
“Their talons are huge, they are the fiercest and strongest owl of all the owl species. They can do 200-400 psi pressure with their talons.”
Zelt said that he was told it will take time for the owl to heal but it could be released in the spring. He hopes he can collect the owl and bring her back to the South Cariboo to be reintroduced into the wild.
“It would be super cool.”