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Stephen J. Lee, Forum News Service, Published March 07 2013

Rescued owl headed for raptor center

GRAND FORKS – The great horned owl rescued from a kite-string tangle Wednesday in a park here is headed down to St. Paul today – by automobile – to the raptor center at the University of Minnesota.

That’s about 280 miles as the crow flies, although crows and owls hate each other.

The saved owl is a girl, not a guy. And she’s probably single, visiting from Canada, not part of a local nesting, courting couple, experts said Thursday, revising their early word on the bird.

Tim Driscoll, the raptor expert who led the rescue effort, kept the owl overnight in his Grand Forks home with the idea he would release it Thursday in Lincoln Park. That’s where skiers spotted her hanging by a thread 20 feet off the ground Wednesday at dusk.

The sound of a nearby owl during the rescue made Driscoll and Dave Lambeth, another Grand Forks bird expert, first figure the injured owl was part of a mating pair.

Driscoll also thought it was a male, because female raptors are bigger than males, but he said Thursday he underestimated this one.

“I have decided she’s a female,” he said Thursday evening from his kitchen.

And she is a great great horned owl, in the upper ranges of weight at nearly 4 pounds, he said: “Three pounds, 14 ounces.”

The owl seems to be doing fine, Driscoll said.

“I can tell you she’s a lot better tonight than she was last night,” he said. “She’s very feisty, stabbing her beak and hissing at me. She’s ticked right now.”

Driscoll obtained a white mouse from a pet store to have over for dinner. But despite the too-trusting mouse crawling all over the predator’s feathers, no meal resulted, Driscoll said.

Although owls eat most things smaller that move, it’s possible the owl has never seen a white mouse before, he said.

He did wet her beak with some Gatorade.

“I didn’t try to fly her today,” Driscoll said. “She’s still favoring that wing. Given that we don’t think she’s on a nest here, there’s no big rush.”

The wing the owl was hanging from doesn’t seem to have a broken bone, he said. But raptors can break their counterpart to our collarbone, an injury easily healed with proper care, he said.

Cayla Bendel, one of his students last year in a raptor course at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, happened to be returning to her Twin Cities home today.

So Bendel is bringing the owl to the raptor center in St. Paul, where it can get all the care it needs, including X-rays and wraps for its wings.

Meanwhile, Driscoll said he and Lambeth probably will hang around Lincoln Park and figure out who that other great horned owl was wooing to during the rescue.

He said he thinks it was part of a pair. “If we could find both owls down there, that will make me feel a lot better.”

It would mean the injured owl probably can be released from St. Paul, or back in Grand Forks, when it’s ready to fly again.

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