A young great horned owl seems to be recovering after becoming entangled in a fence a few miles north of Lincoln.
Mark Rezac discovered the fledgling as he was raking a field of hay, and thought it was dead until it swiveled its head. He called Nebraska Game and Parks, and Conservation Officer Dina Barta arrived within the hour.
“He just looked at us. Like ‘aren’t you going to help or what?’” Rezac said.
Veterinarian David Gordon examined the bird at the Bellevue Animal Hospital on Thursday and said one wing had some puncture wounds and was very bruised. The other wing had some mild bruising.
“The goal is to allow time to heal the wounds, allow the skin to heal and monitor for any skin necrosis,” he said.
Rezac thinks the young bird was either chasing a rabbit or snake he’d dislodged as he raked the field with his tractor or fell out of the nest and landed on a strand of the fence. It fell over as it lost its balance, becoming tangled with its wings spread wide.
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Rezac and Barta struggled to free it from the tangled fencing.
“We pretty quickly realized we weren’t going to get its wings off that fence,” Barta said. “Mark worked pretty quickly to cut that fence.”
Rezac cut the wire at the end of both wings and then behind the shoulder blades to relieve the pressure on the youngster’s wings.
“At one point, the owl went ‘Ow.’ I’m not kidding you,” Rezac said.
It rode in the cab of Barta’s truck to the Raptor Conservation Alliance rehabilitation center in Elmwood, Nebraska, where Betsy Finch and husband Doug removed the barbed wire and administered antibiotics and pain medicine.
The owl was given a few mice for dinner.
Gordon said the bird will stay at the rehabilitation center until its next examination in a week. The hope is that it will be released as soon as it recovers.
“I’m optimistic,” Gordon said, “but soft tissue wounds are unpredictable.”
It’s just another day in the life of a farmer, Rezac said. He joked that — finally — his skills as an EMT and volunteer fireman paid off.
“I’m glad I was able to help. I think all farmers are probably conservationists in one way or another,” he said. “I’ve seen many a deer. Many a turkey. I surely would have felt bad if it had struggled and died in that fence.”
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