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Hurt bird released owl-right

August 01, 2000

Hurt bird released owl-right



By KERRI SACCHET / Staff Writer

photo: RYAN ANSON / staff photographer

OwlSHARPSBURG - When Rex Miller's canoe glided down the Potomac River on the afternoon of Friday, July 7, he never expected he and his group would end up saving an injured barred owl caught in a fishing line.

It was by chance that Miller turned his head and saw that the bird was in a weird position.

"It just didn't look right to see the wing and tail just laying in the water," said Miller, a biologist and administrator for Shepherd's Spring Outdoor Ministry Center at Sharpsburg.

Attempting not to tip over the canoe, Miller picked up the owl, wrapped her in a wet T-shirt and untangled the fishing line from around its body, a challenge in itself.

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"Any time you're working with a wild animal who has feet and claws like an owl can be scary," Miller said.

Miller called Di Conger, founder and director of the Last Chance Wildlife Center in Thurmont, Md., who worked with wildlife and was able to send someone to get the owl on short notice.

Soft tissue damage to the right elbow joint and fishing line caught between the feathers were the owl's only ailments, said Conger, who speculated the bird may have been diving for a fish when she got caught in the line.

"I kept her in an indoor cage and watched her for a day or two just to be sure. There was swelling in her wrist, but they have a way of letting you know when they're ready to move up to the next level," Conger said.

After that, Conger said the owl started getting restless and was able to eat mice for her meals. The next step was to move the bird to an outdoor cage to test its wings.

"I just held my breath and she flew just fine," Conger said.

It took the owl only two weeks to heal, and Conger said it was the rapid recovery that prompted the decision to release the owl in the same spot where she was found.

"If she had been in here for four or five months, which does happen, the release spot isn't quite as critical." Conger said. "Also she might well have a mate nearby because they did spot another barred owl in the area."

The nocturnal female owl was released Saturday night at Snyder's Landing along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal near Sharpsburg, close to where she was rescued, Miller said.

Kim Wyand, secretary at Shepherd's Spring, said it was obvious at the time of the release how well the owl had been nursed back to health.

"The difference was amazing from when we brought her in and tried to find a (person) who would help her to when they released her," Wyand said. "She's a pretty bird and you couldn't tell that before."

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