I had suspicions about this bird based on his behavior at intake, but he was stressed, so I gave him time to calm down some before attempting more than a cursory exam, which revealed no injuries. This was good news. However, my interaction with this RT during the exam and afterward confirmed my earlier suspicions. He’d been in human hands—abusive human hands. He fell on his side, wing raised defensively, when I reached in for him. He flinched when I moved my hand while holding him. His eyes bugged out and the pupils pinned when he looked at me—and he watched my hand movements like he expected to be hit. His talons were overgrown enough that I blunted just the tips of them so he didn’t puncture his own foot when he balled his feet up in stress and fear. He was dehydrated. He refused to eat on his own, but gave the juvenile begging call for food, so I had to hand-feed him, after which he would crouch in the bottom of his box. His flight muscles didn’t feel developed to me. He showed signs of having worn jesses. In short, everything about this bird suggested he’d been in captivity since he was very young—and had not been treated kindly or with any degree of skill or training. And then he’d been dumped to fend for himself without any survival skills.
Stepping off my soapbox, let me thank Telfair County 911, the Telfair County deputy who found and captured the RT and the Telfair firefighter who brought him to me. All these individuals cared enough about our native wildlife to do the right thing. We need more people like them!
On New Year’s Day, this poor sharpie came in with both wing and leg fractures on the right side. The wing fracture was open; the leg fracture was right at the joint and there appeared to be nerve damage to the foot. Either fracture alone would have been a deal-breaker; combined, they gave this poor bird no chance at all. He was euthanized.
The barred owl slated for a Christmas Eve release did indeed get his release, which sorta got overshadowed by the BE intake that night. Normally, I release owls closer to dusk, but given that this guy had one eye with only partial vision, I released him earlier, so I could track him down more easily if he ran into trouble during the release. It can happen—not often, but I’m paranoid!