A great horned owl success story

October 17, 2023

In June, a woman arrived at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital in the afternoon with an injured great horned owl found tangled in her barbed wire fence.

Knowing owls are nocturnal, there is a high likelihood the great horned owl became entangled in the barbed wire sometime in the night while out hunting and had struggled in that fence for many hours since it wasn’t found until 12 pm. Thankfully, the woman who found the owl realized the bird was in a life or death situation. The effort exerted while struggling, along with the oppressive heat, could have easily caused the owl to perish.

Owl upon arrival

The damage the owl sustained was significant. Our veterinarian noted the owl was in fair body condition and mucous membranes were pale. There were multiple lacerations to its chest and back. The leading edge of the left wing was lacerated and twisted, leaving muscle and tendons exposed. 

Staff assessing the injuries

The owl’s condition was critical. Staff administered pain medications, vitamin K, electrolytes, disinfected the wounds and placed the owl on oxygen in an animal intensive care unit. Once the owl’s condition stabilized, the wounds on the wing were sutured, an antibiotic was administered, laser therapy was performed and the owl returned to the intensive care unit to rest.

Tending to the wounds

The owl required continuous monitoring and repeated adjustments to its treatment plan over the next several days due to the severity of its wounds. The details of its care were incredibly involved and finally, on the fourth day at the hospital, the owl showed improvements. The wing wounds started to heal and the owl tolerated the treatments with minimal handling. The owl required long term rehabilitation. 

The owl was in our care for three months and the bird was eventually released back to where it was found. See video below of the owl finally home!

Opportunities to Help

Please, if you see an animal in distress, offer assistance. By taking action, you have the opportunity to save a life and mitigate the suffering another living creature endures. If you are unsure of how to help, call the staff at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for guidance. We are open 365 days a year from 8am to 7pm. Call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, Florida 34102. Call 239-262-2273 or see conservancy.org