Think Wild and Sunriver Nature Center Team Up to Rescue Great Horned Owlet

Whoooo doesn’t love a baby owl rescue story with a happy ending?  

Think Wild, Central Oregon’s wildlife rehabilitation center, worked with Sunriver Nature Center last week to successfully renest a nestling great horned owl that fell from their nest. The owlet was found on the ground near Christmas Valley, Oregon on the evening of March 19. The finders reached out to Sunriver Nature Center, who sent wildlife curator, Victoria Wilson, to collect the owl. She then brought the owl to Think Wild’s wildlife hospital for care on the morning of March 20.

During the exam, Think Wild staff determined that the nestling great horned owl was hypothermic and had slight abdominal bruising, but had not sustained any major injuries. After stabilizing the owlet’s temperature in an incubator and treating the bruising, staff determined that the owl would have the greatest success back with their parents in the wild.

On Friday, March 22, Think Wild reached out to Sunriver Nature Center to coordinate a renesting effort since the nest site was known, and adult owls had been observed continuing to visit the nest. Sunriver Nature Center staff member, Jesse Short, placed the fallen nestling back into the nest, where they were reunited with a sibling, both parents, and a large pile of rodents to feast upon. 

Think Wild aims to reunite young wildlife with their wild parents whenever possible. While the wildlife hospital is equipped and experienced to hand-rear orphaned baby animals, it is best to attempt to reunite wildlife with their wild parents so the young develop skills that will allow them to be successful in the wild. If an animal’s parents or nest can be located and no major injuries have been sustained, Think Wild will attempt to renest and/or reunite.

If baby wildlife do require care in the rehabilitation hospital, Think Wild takes precautions to avoid habitation. Staff feed baby wildlife wearing camouflage and utilize species-specific hand puppets to decrease the chances of stress and habituation. This nestling great horned owl was fed using an owl hand puppet. 

Though renesting and reuniting is often the best option for wildlife, it is important that people reach out to experts to determine the best course of action for each wildlife rescue scenario. This great horned owl required fluids and an incubator before they were stable enough to return to their nest and may not have survived without medical intervention. It can also be unsafe to attempt to renest larger raptors without the help of a trained tree climber or arborist. Parents can be aggressive, and young still in the nest can become spooked and try to flee. 

Baby season is beginning throughout Oregon and is the busiest time of year for wildlife hospitals like Think Wild. Keep an eye out for baby animals, but check with experts before you approach wildlife! Anytime wildlife is suspected to be injured or orphaned, it’s best to call the nearest wildlife rehabilitation center for assistance and advice. In Central Oregon, Think Wild offers support through their wildlife hotline at 541-241-8680. You can support Think Wild’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts by making a donation or joining their 4th Annual Baby Season Baby Shower fundraiser on May 19 from 3-6 pm at Oregon Spirit Distillers in Bend. 

Great horned owls are large nocturnal predators, common throughout North America and parts of subtropical South America. They are found in many different habitats including forests, prairies, and deserts, and eat a variety of prey including small mammals, birds, and reptiles. In Central Oregon, great horned owls provide excellent rodent population control, but can be susceptible to negative impacts from rodenticide use. Oregonians can support local owl populations by installing raptor perches and avoiding rodenticides.