On Tuesday, September 18, the Wildlife Center of Virginia, a leading teaching and research hospital for native wildlife, will be releasing a Barn Owl in Rockingham County north of Harrisonburg. The owl will be released at dusk on Tuesday in an old silo on private property by Suzy Doell, a Wildlife Rehabilitator at the Wildlife Center.
Barn Owl   Barn Owl in flight
[+] Barn Owl, in a rehabilitation cage [+] Barn Owl, in flight
In early June 2007, a farmer found this young Barn Owl - a spring 2007 hatchling - near Willow Run Road north of Harrisonburg, uninjured but unable to fly. The bird was rescued by a Rockingham County Animal Control officer and brought to the Wildlife Center by a volunteer transporter. The owl was in good condition but was a young orphan in need of further care. The owl subsequently suffered a foot injury which required surgery. The Barn Owl has recovered fully from its injury, has grown and developed, and has demonstrated its ability to fly and to hunt. The bird will be released into a silo - a technique which has proven to be a successful method for returning Barn Owls to the wild. Barn Owls are one of the most widely distributed bird species, occurring on all continents except for Antarctica. However, the population of Barn Owls in parts of the United States has declined; Virginia's Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has put the Barn Owl on its list of species of special concern.
Barn Owl after release
[+] Barn Owl, on a barn roof after release
Every year, about 2,500 animals - ranging from Black Bears to Ruby-throated Hummingbirds - are brought to the Wildlife Center for care. "The goal of the Center is to restore our patients to health and return as many as possible to the wild," Wildlife Center President and Co-Founder Edward Clark said. "At the Wildlife Center, we treat to release." The Barn Owl's primary prey is small rodents. The owl has excellent low-light vision and keen hearing - the Barn Owl's ability to locate prey by sound alone is the best of any animal that has been tested. The Wildlife Center is an internationally acclaimed teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine, celebrating 25 years of service during 2007. Since its founding in 1982, the nonprofit Center has cared for more than 48,000 wild animals, representing 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. The Center's public education programs share insights gained through the care of injured and orphaned wildlife, in hopes of reducing human damage to wildlife. The Center trains veterinary and conservation professionals from all over the world and is actively involved in comprehensive wildlife health studies and the surveillance of emerging diseases. Additional information about the Wildlife Center is available at www.wildlifecenter.org.