First, make sure the parents are still in the area. Later that day one of our volunteers located the nest (or at least where it had been) and attempted to spot the parents—they were both there. Great Horned Owls are such good parents that rehabilitators have been able to reunite owl parents with their babies (and in some cases even babies from other parents) after more than a week of separation. Luckily, it took us only a couple of days to stabilize our little patient and get it back to the tree.
Second, scope out the area, find an appropriate place to put the baby back, and do so. The initial tree was close to a high-traffic area, but there were other suitable trees nearby. We placed the nest our volunteer made (since the original nest had been destroyed) and the young bird on the highest branch we could reach and promptly left the area. Though we did not see the parents at this time, they had been spotted the day before.
Third, go back to make sure the plan worked. The next afternoon another volunteer checked on the bird, and the parents were there! Three weeks later the owlet has tripled in size and is being cared for by the parents. Though the bird isn’t out of the woods yet (most raptors don’t make it through their first year of life), it got the chance many young ones in our care never do: to be raised by their parents. Young birds learn much from their parents that is difficult to impossible for us to teach them in captivity. If you think you have found a young animal that needs help, please call us first (503-292-0304, seven days a week) so we can make sure intervention is the right choice.
Photographer Scott Carpenter was able to discreetly observe the nest to check in on the young owl and to take a few photos, showing this delightful family reunion.
Every year the Wildlife Care Center treats 3,000 injured or orphaned native animals. If you would like to make a donation to support our wildlife rehabilitation work at the Wildlife Care Center, click here.