Lost snowy owl moved to care at avian center

VIENNA, W.Va. — After a week in unfamiliar territory in Wood County, a snowy owl from the Arctic Circle has been rescued to get some care for the injuries it suffered.

Julie Zickefoose, a contributing editor to “Bird Watcher’s Digest” and a freelance writer and naturalist, said the bird, which appeared to have a broken wing, has been taken into the care of the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia in Morgantown.

Zickefoose said another snowy owl in the state was in the Morgantown area and was killed after being hit by a car.

“Dr. Jesse Fallon, director of Veterinary Medicine for the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, and Vince Slabe, an expert raptor trapper, arrived here at 8 a.m. today (Thursday) and I got there around 8:30,” she said. “It (snowy owl) wasn’t at the mall; we found it at the Faith Baptist Church on 10th Avenue (in Vienna).”

The owl sat on a pole at the church for six hours before flying down to them, Zickefoose said.

Zickefoose said they were able to get the owl to come down off the pole with live bait. Slabe came up behind the owl and used a net to capture it. She said he planned to use a net cannon, but it wouldn’t work.

After the owl was removed, Zickefoose said, the owl had more problems than a broken wing.

“It has lost 30 percent of its body weight,” she said. “There may be many broken bones in its breast, wrists and hand. It was dying; the only chance it had was to be taken into care.”

Zickefoose said she sounded the alarm to get help for the owl after it was spotted in the area, including along Grand Central Avenue in Vienna.

“People sat up and took notice; it got their attention,”she said.

Fallon said the owl was underweight and had some external parasites, but late Thursday it was responding well to its new surroundings, along with food and pain medication.

As to whether the owl can be returned to the wild, Fallon said it’s too early to say for sure.

“It all depends on how the wing heals,” he said. “We are hopeful it can; it should have a good chance. We just need to get that wing healed and stabilized and then evaluate him.”

Fallon said the owl is a hatch year bird, making him about seven months old.