Next week the Great Horned owl (GHO) will go back for x-rays to determine the status of her leg. This is causing quite a bit of suspense, as we’re hoping it’s healing properly but won’t know for sure until it’s x-rayed. If it’s not showing signs of healing after 4 weeks in a splint, we have no choice but to euthanize.
I can just hear some of you now, wondering, “But why? If she’s an imprint and not a candidate for release, why not just amputate the leg?”
Well, for starters, it’s against federal law. That’s the simple explanation. The reason it’s against federal law is the more complicated explanation. You see, birds of any kind—songbird or raptor—don’t ever really sit down. They’re always standing, shifting their weight from one leg to the other and sometimes pulling one leg into their chests to put all their weight on the other leg. To take away one leg means all the weight is always on that one good leg, which can cause all sorts of foot problems and severe pain for the bird. Furthermore, raptors use their feet to hold their prey so they can tear bits off to eat. A raptor with only one good leg faces a double whammy of inability to properly hold its food AND the very real risk of severe and painful foot infections. So it’s just more humane to put the bird down rather than have it face a life of constant infections and pain. See? Sometimes federal law DOES make sense!