Great Horned Owl Chick, #12-0317

Admission Date: 
April 10, 2012
Release Date: 
August 9, 2012
Location of Rescue: 
Augusta County, VA
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Released August 9, 2012
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

In early April, a young Great Horned Owl chick was found down on the ground at the Shenandoah Valley Campground. The approximately month-old owl was brought to the Wildlife Center. After a quick physical exam, the veterinary team decided that the healthy chick would be a good candidate for re-nesting.

The owl was returned to the area and placed in a laundry basket high up in a tree. After observation by campground personnel, however, it was determined that the parents were not returning to the young owl. The Great Horned Owl was re-admitted to the Wildlife Center on April 10 as patient #12-0317. After an additional physical examination and blood work, the veterinary staff decided to house the owl in the Center’s holding room for a day before moving the bird outdoors into a crate with Papa G’Ho.

Papa G’Ho is the Wildlife Center’s surrogate Great Horned Owl – he was admitted with a wing and leg injury in December 2001, and later was determined to be non-releasable. Because of his feisty nature, the Wildlife Center staff decided that Papa would be an excellent candidate for a surrogate bird – serving as a “role model” to young Great Horned Owl chicks. For years, the staff believed that Papa was a “she” due to the owl’s large size – and referred to him as “Mama G’Ho”. In 2011, a volunteer for the Wildlife Center did some DNA testing to determine the genders of some of the Center’s non-releasable animals – and discovered that “she” is actually a “he”!

Great Horned Owl chick #12-0317 will live in an enclosed crate placed in an outdoor enclosure with Papa G’Ho for the next week – this will be the “introduction” period. After both Papa and the Great Horned Owl chick have settled in, the rehab staff will open the door of the crate so that the young owl may begin to explore the enclosure. The veterinary team will continue to check the bird daily over the next few days; the veterinarians did find a small amount of bruising over the owl’s eyes and in its mouth upon admission. Great Horned Owl #12-0317 is eating well on its own – a diet of chopped rats, provided several times a day.


September 13, 2012

The introductory live prey training is off to a slow start -- on June 18, the rehabilitation staff provided a mix of live and dead food for the owls. The regular meal of dead mice and rats was to ensure all owls received their fair share of the food -- the live prey [mice] was to start planting the idea that the owl's would have to hunt for themselves prior to release. That evening, no live mice were successfully hunted. The rehabilitation staff will continue to intermittently provide some live food. At some point, Great Horned Owl #12-0317 -- the oldest of the bunch -- will likely be separated from the others for "real" live prey training.

September 13, 2012

Great Horned Owlet #12-0317 has been doing well over the past few weeks -- the rehabilitation staff report that the young owl's flights are strong and silent. #12-0317 is a little ahead of where its Maryland roommates are at this point -- the Augusta County owl is a little older and more mature.

As the rehabilitation staff start thinking ahead towards the owls' eventual releases, the staff want to ensure that all the young owls will have plenty of practicewith hunting. To help provide enough experience, the rehabilitation staff will start to occasionally introduce live mice into the owls' enclosure. Ultimately, Great Horned Owlet #12-0317 will have to pass several nights of mouse school on its own, but this "introduction" period will either give the owlet some first-hand experience with hunting -- or it will allow the young owl to watch Papa G'Ho hunt successfully. The "mouse introduction" begins on the night of June 18.

September 13, 2012

After a two-week "owl cam" hiatus, we are back in action! Check out the Wildlife Center's Critter Cam tonight to see Great Horned Owlet #12-0317. The rehab staff have been lightly exercising the young owl since May 17 -- the owl has gradually been building stamina and is flying perch to perch about 7-8 times at each session.

September 13, 2012

The Great Horned Owl #12-0317 has been doing well over the past two weeks. The rehab staff report that the owl has continued to gain a small amount of weight at each weigh-in and is in great body condition. The Wildlife Center has been experiencing some "owl cam" difficulties over the past few days, but hope to have things resolved at the end of this week.

September 13, 2012

The Great Horned Owl chick looks less and less like a chick each day -- and seems to be doing well with Papa G'Ho. The young owl has been out of its night-time crate this past week, and has been entertaining Critter Cam viewers each evening [cam hours have been extended to midnight]. The rehab staff report that the owl's weight has been consistent.

The veterinary staff will be catching the owl today just for one more check of the owl's mouth -- to monitor the bruising and broken blood vessels that were noted upon admission. Cam viewers may also note several blue drapes in the owls' enclosure -- these are present so that the veterinary team can collect a fecal sample.

September 13, 2012

Everything has been going well with Papa G'Ho and owlet #12-0317 -- the two hang out together in the flight pen during the day, and the owlet is enclosed in a crate at night. Soon, the young Great Horned Owl will remain in the flight pen with Papa G'Ho all the time.

Rehabilitator Suzy reports that Great Horned Owlet #12-0317 is making feeding calls at Papa, though since male Great Horned Owls typically do not play a role in feeding their young, Papa is not indulging the owlet's request. In the meantime, the pair of owls have moved two doors down -- to FP6. This makes them the newly-featured subjects on Critter Cam!

September 13, 2012

On April 16, both Papa G'Ho and Great Horned Owlet #12-0317 were moved to a flight pen -- FP4. The young owl was kept enclosed in its crate for one more night, just so that Papa could get used to the transition to a different pen. On April 17, the crate door was opened and the owlet joined Papa G'Ho on one of the high perches in FP4. The staff checked on them several times today -- so far, the introduction seems to be going well.

The young Great Horned Owl will be enclosed in its crate for the next couple of nights, so that the staff are always around when the two are out together. If all continues to go well, the young owl will remain out during the night on Thursday, April 19.

A peek into Fp4:

August 10, 2012

Great Horned Owl #12-0317 was released on the evening of August 9! Wildlife rehabilitator Amber released the bird at the Shenandoah Valley Campground at dusk; about 80 people were in attendance. Wildlife rehabilitator Kelli was present and reports that the owl flew beautifully -- over the treeline and out of sight!

The crowd gathers:

Amber brings out the owl for release:

The Wildlife Center release crew:

L to R: Erika [student], Andrea [student], Kelli [rehabilitator], Zach [rehabilitation intern], Amber [rehabilitator], Wojciech [student]

Special thanks to release attendee Shelly Hokanson for sharing photos of the release -- photos property of Shelly:

Click here to see a video of the owl release!

August 8, 2012

Great Horned Owl #12-0317 successfully passed six night of live prey training -- and the veterinary team have given medical clearance for release, based on the owl's blood work. The owl will return to the Shenandoah Valley Campground in Verona, Virginia -- and you're invited to the release!

This public release will take place at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 9. Those interested in attending the release should plan on meeting at the campground at 7:45 p.m. Wildlife Center rehabilitator Amber Dedrick will release the owl. The campground is in Verona, just north of Staunton, Virginia, and is about three miles off of I-81. For directions to the Shenandoah Valley Campground, please click here. Proceed past the main office to the large hill -- more parking is available on the hill and the release will take place from there.

August 3, 2012

Great Horned Owl #12-0317 was caught on August 2 for an eye re-check -- the veterinary team found that the corneal ulcer had fully healed. The owl was returned to FP6 so that it can continue its live prey testing. If all goes well, the owl could be released as early as next week!

July 30, 2012

Great Horned Owlet #12-0317 was moved to flight pen A3 last week. After several days of exercise and acclimating to the new, much-larger space, the rehabilitation staff started mouse school on Friday, July 27. The owl had a successful night of hunting, and passed “mouse school”, but on Saturday, rehabilitator Kelli noticed the owl squinting with one eye.

The vet staff caught the owl for a quick exam – and found that the owl had a corneal ulcer. This injury on the outermost layer of the owl’s eye is treatable, though will require special eye medication twice a day for the next five days. The owl has been moved to the Center’s metal cage complex for the duration of treatment.

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