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Despite being hit by car, this great-horned owl suffered no broken bones. Submitted photo/Lisa Vebber
This image from Wikimedia Commons illustrates the asymmetrical ears of owls, thus allowing them to triangulate sound to locate prey.
This photo taken by remote camera shows the mule deer decimating their breakfast. Submitted photo/California Wildlife Center
Heather Patrice Brown, Development Coordinator, California Wildlife Center
9:31 am PDT August 19, 2020

On July 30, California Wildlife Center received a great-horned owl who had been hit by a car in Topanga. Initial exams revealed he had blood in his mouth, had droopy eyelids and couldn't stand, indicative of head trauma. Luckily the owl did not suffer any broken bones. He was given subcutaneous fluids, pain medications, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. Staff placed a tail guard on his feathers to prevent feather breakage.

Staff initially had to hand-feed him as he couldn't eat on his own. By his fifth day in care, the owl was once again standing. After two weeks, staff saw the owl self-feed. Wildlife technicians tested the owl's ability to fly, but he was unable to get much lift. His chart calls for another test flight at the end of this week and if he flies well, he should be ready to return to the wild in two to six weeks.

Great-horned owls are relatively common in Southern California and are found across most of the Americas. They prefer woodland habitats but have adapted to suburban and agricultural areas. They eat the most diverse diet of any North American bird of prey, which includes insects, rodents, mid-sized mammals, reptiles, fish, birds and carrion or animal carcasses. They even hunt other raptors and venomous snakes!

Being nocturnal, great-horned owls rely on their excellent hearing and eyesight to catch prey. The "horns" on the top of their heads are in fact tufts of feathers. The owl's ears are asymmetrical on the sides of their head, allowing them to triangulate sound in order to locate prey. They also have tube-shaped rather than round eyes which gives them increased depth-perception, but also means they are unable to rotate them in their sockets. That is why it's necessary for owls to be able to swivel their heads 270 degrees.

Great-horned owl populations have declined by 30 percent in the last 50 years, with the most significant losses in Canada and the Great Lakes region. The general reduction in numbers is tied to loss of habitat, exposure to rodenticide poisons, and collisions with fences and cars, such as this patient experienced.

While they usually lay eggs in tree cavities or nests abandoned by other species, great-horned owls will make use of pre-constructed roosting platforms. Click here to learn how to construct one for your yard.

If you find an injured owl, get a box with holes in it and line it with a large towel or newspaper on the bottom. Throw a towel over the owl's face and body. Turn the box on its side next to the bird, and using a broom or large stick, gently push the owl/towel combo into the box. Carefully turn the box upright and seal. Do not offer any food or water. Place it in a quiet, dark location (for example, a bathroom) until you reach a licensed wildlife rehabilitator (CWC 310-458-9453).

Oh Deer!

Our six orphaned mule deer fawns are getting better every day! This photo taken by remote camera shows them decimating their breakfast.

 Click here to donate to their care today.

You may also Sponsor a Fawn and receive:

  • A personalized Certificate of Sponsorship

  • A photo

  • A Mule Deer fact sheet

You have the option to add a plush fawn to your package. They make great gifts!

The Week in Numbers

Current number of patients in care: 204

New patients this week: 26

 California Wildlife Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides medical and rehabilitative care to more than 4,300 sick, injured, and orphaned native California animals every year. Click here to donate.