Great horned owl found stuck in barbed wire fence

June 30, 2023

This great horned owl was among the 79 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a red-headed woodpecker, a loggerhead shrike, a green heron, a barred owl, five chimney swifts, a gopher tortoise, and a grey squirrel.

A woman arrived at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital a little after noon with an injured great horned owl found tangled in her barbed wire fence. The damage the owl sustained was significant. Our veterinarian noted the owl was in fair body condition, mucous membranes were pale, there were multiple lacerations on its chest and back, and the leading edge of the left wing was lacerated and twisted leaving muscle and tendons exposed.

The owl’s condition was critical; staff administered pain medications, vitamin K, and electrolytes. They disinfected the wounds and placed the owl on oxygen in an animal intensive care unit. Once the owl’s condition has 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.

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 are healing and the owl is tolerating treatments with minimal handling but will require long-term rehabilitation.

A great horned owl undergoes surgery at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for wounds sustained after being entangled in a 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.

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.

Recent Releases

A northern cardinal, a Florida red-bellied turtle, a loggerhead shrike, a gopher tortoise, three northern mockingbirds, a marsh rabbit, two fish crows and two nine-banded armadillos were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Hospital staff is incredibly grateful to everyone who donated items in support of our eighth annual Wildlife Baby Shower, specifically Ankrolab Brewing Company which held a family-friendly event to raise awareness and funds for our most delicate patients. All donations directly benefit the animals admitted to our facility. Visit to see all the many opportunities you can get involved, support our work and protect the environment.