A great horned owl rescued after getting tangled in a barbed wire fence is on the mend.
Jan Bell found the bird southeast of Red Deer on Friday and managed to free it with the help of Kevin Lundie.
The owl suffered a number of puncture wounds to its right wing as it tried to free itself from the fence.
Now at the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, near Spruce View, the bird has started back on solid food, feasting on a pocket gopher on Sunday night for the first time since it was injured.
Carol Kelly, executive director and founder of the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, said the bird’s wing is warm, meaning blood is still circulating well through it.
“There is a lot of muscle damage and there is probably about an inch of bone by the elbow area that is showing, so it’s going to be some time for that skin to grow over and for him to get that muscle tone back to be able to fly,” Kelly said.
The owl was given Pedialyte to help rehydrate him on Friday and then moved on to a high protein substance known as Nutri-Cal. He is still receiving antibiotics to fight any possible bacterial infections, B vitamins to build up red blood vessels and a Chinese herb known as Yunnan that helps blood to clot and stems internal bleeding. Once his wounds heal over the owl will be able to join 13 other great horned owls in an outside flight cage to regain his strength. It will likely take a month or two for him to recover.
Kelly said barbed wire can take a large toll on wildlife, particularly owls because they hunt low to the ground. She encouraged people when they are replacing old fences or putting up new ones to consider barbless, high tensile or other options for fencing.
Bell saw the bird, driving into work, as she got off Hwy 590 onto Hwy 816. She freed it with the help of Kevin Lundie, who stopped to help. Bell got to see the owl in better shape when she visited the centre on Sunday.
She is raising money for the centre, posting a note to her friends and family on her Facebook account encouraging them to contribute to the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, and putting a jar at the dog daycare she uses, 4 Paws Dog Daycare, that reads: “Give a loonie for hootie.”
Bell’s rescue of the bird was all the more impressive because she has a phobia of owls. It stems from when she was a child and her aunt had an owl clock. When she was little Bell was told the owl would get her if she didn’t eat her vegetables.
Bell is just about over her fear now. On her visit to the centre on Sunday, the great horned owl flapped its wings at Bell to let her know the pocket gopher was his, and it didn’t faze her.