Screech Owl Rescue and Release: A Wildlife Success Story
by: Natural Resource Officer Sean Kortis
Last month, I was working in town when I received a report from Sandy Neck Park Manager Nina Coleman regarding a small owl that was trapped within the chimney of a home in Marstons Mills. I drove with Coleman to the residence where we located the owl in the back corner of the fireplace. At first glance, the owl was difficult to locate. Owls are masters of camouflage, and this particular animal happened to be a Gray-Morph Eastern Screech Owl. Needless to say, it managed to blend in quite well with the ash inside the fireplace, and it took a few seconds to realize that it was not just a charred piece of wood we were looking at!
After locating and identifying the owl, we started on a rescue plan. I donned the bulky wildlife rescue gloves (Screech owls may be small, but their talons are no joke) while Coleman staged a safe barricade in front of the fireplace, just in case the owl decided to fly out into the house.
While we had the advantage of a small, confined fireplace, the owl still managed to evade several capture attempts by ducking under the grate and hopping from side to side. However, we were ultimately successful in capturing the animal and placing it safely in our wildlife rescue bin!
While the owl looked to be in good health, we wanted to first transport it to the Cape Wildlife Center in order to get a proper check-up and determine if the animal could be rehabbed and/or released. As always, Cape Wildlife Staff did a wonderful job in helping us out with this animal. After a few good checks, it was time to bring the animal to the aviary to determine if it could safely and successfully take-off, fly, and land. We followed Cape Wildlife staff to the aviary and watched this owl nail all three tests flawlessly. Besides smelling a little bit like soot, staff decided this animal was healthy. A silent flight and graceful landing meant it was ready to return home that day!
Coleman and I were joined by Sandy Neck Operations Supervisor Donna Bragg on a quest to find a nice location for this owl’s release. A scenic cranberry bog bordering a forested pocket of woods on the outskirts of a nearby Marstons Mills neighborhood seemed like a perfect fit. On our walk down to the bog, an owl pellet was observed on the ground in front of us – perhaps this was the owl’s domain before it found its way into a chimney during the last harsh winter storm?
After opening the wildlife box and grabbing the owl, it did not take long to take flight and return to the forest it likely called home. Watching it fly off, completely silent, weaving through a maze of branches, was an incredible sight and and incredible experience; to witness such a majestic bird in-person.
Throughout the years, we have observed, captured and rescued a lot of injured wildlife. Unfortunately, many of these animals do not get happy endings like this one. But this experience was something that I will never forget. To see such a majestic creature receive a second chance is special and it makes it all worthwhile.