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Photo by Janet Goodban

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. August 3, 2018 – Police Blotter – Wednesday 8:06 a.m. — A caller from Vista Avenue reported a shockingly aggressive owl. The caller said the bird drove he and his wife back into the house. He said he and the owl were making eye contact earlier,” July 19, Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, The Union.

Seeing this paragraph in the newspaper immediately prompted Kim Franza, Raptor Team Coordinator with Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release (WR&R) to start a search for the owl. After several attempts by Kim and others from the organization, the owl was captured and taken to WR&R’s raptor clinic in Penn Valley.

According to Franza,  “We talked to many people in the neighborhood and they had been feeding the owl for weeks.  It was fed raw meatballs, raw chicken, bacon and frozen mice. The owl has been landing right at the feet of residents or on their outside chairs and tables while they are present and even looking into their windows begging for food. I suspect it is a first year Great Horned Owl because he is still doing the call for food as he would make to his parents. This call sounds like a whistle.  After talking with many of the residents, there’s a good chance he might injure someone if he was not fed. These owls have lethal talons and beak.”

“Several residents let me know that someone in the area found the owl as a nestling and took care of it until recently when he released it, thinking it would be fine.  Owl parents normally feed their chicks until mid-September in our area.  This owl, having only been hand fed by a person and not knowing any other way to find food, will never stop begging from people.  This is called developing a “hard imprint” on people, which means he may never live on his own in the wild. He never learned to hunt,” continued Franza.

Photo by Linda Adams

“This is one of the reasons it is ill advised and illegal to raise any wild bird or animal without proper training and certification. This is for the safety of the public as well as the safety and wellness of our wildlife. If you do find an orphaned baby animal or bird, please contact WR&R. We have had extensive training on how to raise orphaned raptors such as this owl, songbirds, bats, and small mammals. And we have attended rigorous trainings, are permitted by both the State and Federal Fish and Wildlife agencies, and have a large network of fellow wildlife rescue organizations in the state,” said Franza.

“The young owl is now in our care. We will be working with it to see if we can reverse the imprinting, however it may never be able to return to the wild. We are in contact with several wildlife facilities that showcase native raptors in a caring and healthy environment when they can’t be released. This may be the best future for this young owl. And it is an example of what happens if a wild animal imprints on a human, I’m sad to say,” concluded Franza.

Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release is a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and releases native birds and mammals back into the wild. It is an all volunteer organization that depends on donations to provide for the food, medication, and shelter for injured or orphaned animals. In 2017, WR&R cared for over 800 birds and mammals, primarily from the Nevada County area.

If you find a wild bird or animal in need of help, contact WR&R’s 24-hour hot line 530-432-5522 which is available every day of the year. In addition, the Intake Center is open from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm through the end of August and is located across the street from Taco Bell, next to Walkers Office Supplies in the Brunswick Basin, Grass Valley. Or for more information, see www.cawildlife911.org.

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