On March 11, a private citizen in Moyock, North Carolina found a fledgling Great Horned Owl on the ground. When the citizen attempted to re-nest the bird, they found three dead siblings in the nest, a strong indicator that the owlet was orphaned. The rescuer brought the owlet to permitted wildlife rehabilitator Dana Lusher in Chesapeake, Virginia for an initial evaluation. After two weeks of care, Dana transferred the owlet to the Center to be paired with Papa G'Ho, the Center's ambassador Great Horned Owl who acts as a surrogate parent for orphaned Great Horned Owls.
On admission, the owlet was alert and responsive. Center veterinary intern Dr. Emily examined the fledgling and did not find any injuries. No abnormalities were noted on radiographs or during an ophthalmic (eye) exam. After completing her exam, Dr. Emily placed the owlet in the Center's indoor Hold for rest and monitoring. Though the owlet was determined to be healthy, there is a possibility that because of the owl's young age it will imprint on people. To prevent this, Center staff wore specialized face coverings and did not talk when examining the owlet. They also planned to place the owlet with Papa G'Ho to help it develop natural owl behaviors, essentially keeping it wild so that it can eventually be released.
On March 27, the rehabilitation team moved Papa G'Ho inside the Center to start acclimating with the owlet. During the acclimation process, both owls were placed in crates with visual access to each other but could not physically interact. This gives both owls time to become used to the presence of the other and allows the rehabilitation team to monitor for any concerning behavior before placing the owls together. After several days of acclimation, the owlet and Papa G'Ho were moved to the Center's C-pens and placed together on April 1. So far, the rehabilitation team has observed Papa G'Ho and the owlet displaying comfortable behavior around each other, a positive sign.
The owlet will continue to stay with Papa G'Ho as it grows and develops, though its prognosis remains guarded due to the potential for it to imprint on humans.