Owl's Miracle

Last week, Pet Tips ‘n’ Tales was about an owl that struck a police car and once rehabilitated, was then released.

What happened to another owl miraculously ties into that first story.

In late winter, Berneda was carefully driving 45 mph along the dark, mountainous-winding road to her farm. She had seen bears, cougars, bobcats and other wild animals cross the isolated road and did not want to hit any.

She was a mile from home when something hit her pickup’s windshield — so hard, in fact, that she thought it broke the passenger window. Not wanting to stop for fear of other dangers, she continued home.

Once safely in her driveway, she climbed from the pickup and saw a dark ball caught up under the windshield’s sunshade. Being a farmer, she was prepared for almost anything, donning gloves to lift the mysterious ball free.

To her surprise, she was holding a little-limp Western Screech Owl. She gently carried the unconscious feather ball into her mud room. The poor winged beauty appeared dead. Berneda, an animal lover, took off her gloves, stroked its downy-soft feathers and apologized for ending its young life.

“It was precious,” said Berneda. “Then to my surprise, after 10 minutes of holding, petting and chatting to it, I felt a heartbeat and a slight breath. I continued massaging her chest. After a bit, she reached out and grasped my little finger with a one-inch razor-like talon. It reached around my finger and felt scary!”

Amazingly, an hour later, the little ball of feathers was strong enough to sit up and hold up its head. Berneda placed the owl in a laundry basket, used a towel to provide a warm covering, then left the creature to begin the process of healing.

“At bedtime, I checked in and thankfully the owl appeared stronger,” she said. “The next morning it was alert, but one eye was slightly swollen.”

Berneda has a 170-acre farm and cattle, so the following day was a busy one for the bird’s nurse. But no worries — the owl was safe and warm in the house.

This is when divine providence that had been set in motion six weeks earlier manifested in a remarkable outcome. Berneda saw a stranger’s vehicle stop at the end of their long driveway. Two people climbed out. She could not tell what they were doing, but they were up to something. Luckily, her grandson-in-law, Matt, saw the activity and jumped on his motorbike to speed down to the lower fence. He approached the people and questioned what they were doing.

One of the individuals identified herself as the Cascades Raptor Center’s veterinarian, explaining that six weeks earlier a Western Screech Owl had struck a police patrol car and the officer had brought the injured bird to their center.

“Owls are territorial and this was the closest location the police officer recalled where the bird was injured,” Dr. Ulrike told him. “Owls have established home ranges and returning them to their own territory is best for post-release survival.”

To Matt’s delight, he watched the rehabilitated Screech Owl fly into the evening.

Matt told the vet that her timing could not have been more perfect because last night another Screech Owl was struck by a car and resting at his home.

“The vet followed him up the driveway and into my mudroom,” said Berneda. “She looked at the bird, declared it had a concussion and then she took it for rehabilitation at the raptor center.”

Two weeks later, Dr. Ukrike returned with the healthy bird. She had called ahead so, by the time she arrived, Berneda had eight family members present for its release. The group walked to the edge of the forest, Dr. Ulrike opened the cage and the healed bird flew out and up into the tall fir trees.

“It was a happy celebration and we shouted, ‘There she goes! Stay Safe!’” said Berneda. “I raised my hands and thanked God for her healing. God watches over his feathered creatures just like he watches over us.”

It was a miracle that a little bird needing medical help had a specialized Raptor Veterinarian make an unexpected house call!

TIP: Meet 35 rescued Raptors in Eugene: Take an hour, self-guided tour, Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., along two short outdoor trails on the side of Spencer’s Butte. For more information, visit www.cascadesraptorcenter.org.

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Humane Society for Neuter/Spay Assistance Program. 541-942-2789