Barney the Great Horned owl is recovering well after hitting a power line

Electrocuted owl recovers

A Great Horned owl surprised the team at the SORCO, the South Okanagan's raptor rescue facility, by recovering after hitting a power line and suffering some major injuries.

“He actually was right across the street from our site. He hit the power line early in the morning about four weeks ago,” Dale Belvedere, manager for SORCO, said.

The neighbours had let their dog out  that morning who alerted the family by barking at the owl, which SORCO has named Barney.

“When they brought him in we knew right away that he hit the power line.” 

The smell is an easy marker to distinguish the incident, like burnt hair on a human according to Belvedere. 

“We could see the burns on his feet, on the bottoms of his talons.” 

In a raptor it usually takes about three days for the burns to come out, but in Barney’s case they never did. A lot of his burns were internal, which worried the team.

“It was his throat that was basically seared, that's why he couldn't eat...We just had to keep him hand fed, he couldn't stand so we kept him propped up in towels so that he wasn't always lying down because that could cause another issue.”

This is one bird SORCO wasn't sure about if he was going to get better. 

“Usually when they hit a power line it can affect their brain as well and you can't bring them back from that. When they're just suffering from burns and when the burns come out, and you can treat the burns with antibiotic creams and pain killers, then their chances are pretty good.” 

The first few days Belvedere said Barney was really out of it, but she senses that these birds know you're trying to help them when they're in that kind of a state. 

“He didn't try to fight us when we fed him….But we have to be careful when we do that because we don't want them to get used to humans which is very possible. So very little contact.”

After a few more days, the owl began brightening up and was starting to stand on one leg and one talon. 

“He just pushed himself to get better...He did a lot of the work on his own.” 

About half of owls that hit a power line will survive.

“To our amazement he survived. He's standing and flying and eating on his own. He's doing really well.”

SORCO plans to keep him until he’s fully healed.  

“Right now, he's residing in an interior flight pen in the clinic, meaning he has some exterior visual and will stay there for about a week. Then he'll be moved into a large flight pen outside and once he has full strength again will be released.” 

It will most likely be a week to ten days before he heads back out. 

“But his appetite is there, everything there, he can see and he has his feeling back. So we're just gonna watch him.”

Barney will head back right across the highway at the same place when he’s strong. The nest he comes from had three babies this year.

“His mate is obviously waiting for him to come back,” Belvedere said. “We'll definitely put him back there so he's with his mate because they mate for life.” 

“It's a happy story for us.”

SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre works to rehabilitate injured birds and release back into the wild. If you've found an injured raptor, call SORCO at (250) 498-4251.

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