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PHOTOS: Barn-owl rescue in South Surrey ends with hospital visit for OWL volunteer

June Young says trapped raptor ‘exploded in my face’ during response to a call for help

The recent rescue of a “pretty well-feathered baby” in South Surrey was both painful and rewarding for White Rock’s June Young.

Called to help June 25 after a young barn owl got itself stuck between two towers of pallets at Art Knapp nursery, Young – a longtime volunteer for Orphaned Wildlife (OWL) Rehabilitation Society who said she “can’t turn down a rescue” – described the scenario as an unusual one.

Art Knapp, she noted, has lots of barn-owl boxes on the property; about a dozen whisky-barrel nests, the residents of which help keep the rat and mouse population in check.

READ MORE: WATCH: Mother wood duck takes over South Surrey barn-owl box

Crows, Young continued in a ‘Saga of the Barn Owl rescue’ she wrote and shared with friends and Peace Arch News, are a menace to most birds, and in this case, a flock was seen attacking an owl, prompting it to fly into the gap between the pallet stacks.

She said how the owl got into the space “defies logic.”

“It was actually between pallets lined against a chain link fence, so there wasn’t an exit there, and the gap was so small, it couldn’t have backed out to escape,” Young said.

At first glance, Young thought the owl was dead or close to death. Once a worker used a forklift to move the first layer of pallets, she could see tail feathers and figured, with gloves on, she would try and ease it out backwards.

And that is where the pain factor came in.

“As soon as part of her body emerged, she exploded in my face,” Young said. “I had control of her wings and one leg, but the other leg grabbed hold of my bare arm. One of the claws buried itself completely in my arm, and it really hurt.”

Fortunately, the raptor came out of the experience seemingly unscathed, but was transported to OWL just to be sure. It’s expected to be ready for banding and release by the end of July – “with some hunting lessons under his belt.”

Meanwhile, with her arm starting to look red and “a bit swollen,” Young couldn’t quite close the book on her side of the story just yet. She spent several hours of the next day in Peace Arch Hospital emergency, ultimately leaving with antibiotics – but not before being asked by multiple healthcare staff, including the doctor who treated her, to regale them with the story.

Young said the experience took her back a few years, to another barn-owl encounter that resulted in talon wounds to one of her eyebrows and and her nose. While she can laugh about it now, it was a sobering reminder of the damage raptors can inflict.

It happened as she was holding a juvenile barn owl while volunteering at OWL. As the owl was being quite docile, Young said she was slower than usual in returning her to her cage following a medical check.

“The next thing, she flew at me. I tried to stop her getting out, and somehow she attached herself to my ear,” Young told PAN by email. “Literally she had one talon around my ear, one of these claws was through my eyebrow and her other talon was attached to my face with a claw up my nose.”

Fortunately, Young’s injuries left no scars, but she said she realized after just how lucky she was to not have lost her sight.

She noted she immediately “got back on the horse” following the encounter, and insisted on interacting with another bird right away. Her passion for volunteering at OWL, though momentarily shaken, was not swayed.

It continued even through the recent heat wave, which led to an influx of young birds at the Delta facility.

“The heat caused a lot of problems,” Young wrote. “Parents abandoned their nests, and babies, not yet fledglings, also abandoned their nests. We had 30 baby eagles, and 5 more on the way on Saturday, when I was there, and we actually ran out of food.

“In 4 days we had 100 abandoned babies come in. We had to empty shelves … drag in wooden benches and shelving to have places for the cages. We had a lot of baby merlins, especially, some coopers hawks, barn owls, and of course the baby eagles.”

Many responded to an appeal for help, Young added, noting “people are wonderful in an emergency.”
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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