I met an Owl recently, actually met her a few times over the past couple years; but with my last visit, I was reminded on how important it is to keep knowledge of anything to do with Owls pretty much a secret from most people.
You might tell someone you totally trust, and they honestly may have the same care/concern for these mystical creatures; but all it takes is to tell one wrong person somewhere down the line and bad things can happen.
I only have bits of this Owl's actual story and will piece it together how I can imagine it unfolded. And after reading this, perhaps another person will realize the importance of protecting these birds from the yahoos of the world.
A Great-horned Owl pair nested in a wooded area near town. People had heard the Owls with their familiar "hoo h'hoos" from dusk til dawn.
A couple who lived very close to where the nightly calls were made let their curiosity get the better of them and decided to seek out these Owls. And luck have it, after a couple nights, they pin-pointed a location and set out the next morning with daylight over them to find the nest. Success! And what a surprise to find a pair of Owl chicks in the nest!
Not wanting to be selfish and keep this marvelous find to themselves, they brought a couple friends to the nest to see it for themselves. And these couple friends told a couple more friends and before long a lot of people knew and saw this nest.
Somewhere through the lines of communication, the nest was told to a couple younger males who also came to see the nest. It was atop a rotted old tree stump not much more than 10 ft or so above ground. After a couple visits with the Owls over a few days, they got talking about how easy it would be to climb right up to that nest. As the conversation continued, ideas on how cool it would be to have an Owl as a pet were brought up from the depths of one's mind. And before you know it, people coming to see the nest discovered that one Owl chick had gone missing. People figured this is the natural way of things and perhaps this young Owl was sick and fallen prey to something through the night. What else could it be? Sure it's unfortunate but that's nature for you. And people watched the remaining chick grow over the next number of weeks.
Little did they know that not too far off, in a shed at a neighbour's home, there were the two males with the missing Owl chick. The Owl being very young quickly became "human imprinted" and mistaking these lads as it's parents. No more was this a wild Owl. It was a human, so it thought. And it seemed perfectly normal to sit in this enclosure (shed) with it's parents and have food and beverage brought to it. Isn't that what all parents do for their young? All the kids love potato chips, soda pop and McDonalds cheeseburgers! This is awesome!
But after a 10 days or so this idea of keeping an Owl as a pet became stupid, boring and too much work. So the boys confided in another man from town and he thought he could do much better with this Owl in his home, not just a shed. No more potato chips for this Owl, it's a meat eating bird, and it shall have meat everyday! Steak, pork chops, chicken thighs and still them cheeseburgers because even the adults about town love them McDonalds cheeseburgers too! Unfortunately the man had a bit of a drinking problem and as he consumed his daily dozen of his favorite brew, he became quite generous with the suds and began feeding the Owl beer as well.
This of course didn't last too long as word got out in the small town. The local veterinarian got involved and figuring that he took care of sick cats and dogs, that he'd be better suited to care for this Owl, and even perhaps save it's life. Humans cannot live on junk food and beer for as long as they hope. How can one think it would be good for an Owl? Yes, without a doubt this Owl surely would die sooner than later under a non-vet's care.
This non-avian doctor did what he could for the Owl. Uncooked ground beef and chicken livers was a daily dietary source must. And water.
I'd like to believe this vet had the Owl for less than a week before his good judgement, and being a doctor for our animal friends, had him make the right decision to turn this Owl over to people who could care for her properly now. And through some contacts and phone calls, the young Great-horned Owl was soon in the care of a Raptor Centre in our province of Ontario.
The Owl lives in an environment now where her happiness comes above all else. She is fed properly with more natural food that an Owl eats in the wild... mice, young chicks, etc... all humanely destroyed (sorry), frozen and fed later on thawed out.
She can never be freed to fly where she chooses, to hunt for her own survival and feel that sense of freedom and independence. Now don't go feeling bad for her now because really, she doesn't know any better.
We cannot paint everyone with the same brush in that town or anywhere else. But really, do we need to take that chance?
Owls are an extremely rare sighting in the greater Toronto area for most people even though Great Horns and Screeches are year round residents. Half a dozen or so of the 11 species in this province only come to the area for the winter months (3 to 4 months tops) make it a special treat for those of us who appreciate and respect them. But some get a little too "goo goo ga ga" over the birds and forget about the Owl's safety, or just do not know, and while it's really cool to see one, we must protect them with a code of silence... unless you REALLY REALLY trust another or perhaps you are twice their size and a tad off balance and will tear them a new one if they did something which could bring harm to the Owl.
Anyways, as I said, I've pieced together a few tid bits of what her story was and made my own tale from it. I hope you enjoyed and maybe took something from it.
And now meet Octavius the "stolen" Great-horned Owl 5 years later...