Wildlife Inc. races to save injured screech owl

Bradenton Beach, Fla. – Its feathers were matted with blood and a thin layer of tissue separated its small beating heart from exposure.

A harrowing two-day effort to save a badly injured screech owl produced thousands of social media responses offering well wishes, prayers and praise for the work of Wildlife Inc, even after its death.

A screech owl was badly injured by a tree trimmer, exposing its chest cavity. Photo courtesy of Wildlife Inc.
A screech owl was badly injured by a tree trimmer, exposing its chest cavity. Photo courtesy of Wildlife Inc.

The small eastern screech owl was rushed into Wildlife Inc. in Bradenton Beach March 11. The owl had sustained a major injury to its chest after meeting with a chainsaw.

A tree trimmer accidentally sawed the bird’s chest wide open as he sawed through a log it was hiding in. The tree trimmer immediately rushed the owl to Wildlife Inc.

“The tree trimmers are really good about it, most of them are good people,” said Gail Straight, owner of Wildlife Inc.

Wildlife Inc.’s Facebook post assured its audience the tree trimmers were animal lovers and the injury was accidental.

At Wildlife Inc., the Straights had a decision to make: whether try to save the owl, or put the animal down. Despite the injury to the chest, the owl appeared to be alert and active.

The bird went to the Island Animal Clinic the same day and Dr. Ashley Gardener performed surgery. The screech owl survived the surgery and the first night at Wildlife Inc.

“It looked like it was really going to do well. It’s such a bummer the little guy didn’t make it,” said Straight.

Wildlife Inc. announced around 2 p.m. March 11 to Facebook fans: “Unfortunately the little screech owl with the chest wound did not survive. We gave it a try and that’s all we can do. At least he died in a comfortable place on pain medication. I was really hoping he would pull through.”

However vigilant tree trimmers are, birds frequently come into Wildlife Inc. with similar injuries this time of year Straight said. This time of year is nesting season for many migratory birds. The screech owl is not a migratory bird.

To remove a nest of a migratory bird from a tree is illegal without a permit from the Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It is also illegal to kill migratory birds.

Screech owls are usually heard and not seen. The small species of owl have excellent camouflage, and hide in the nooks and crannies of trees in the day. Their sound is a trilling or whinny sound.

Screech owls can be found in urban or rural settings, wherever there are trees, particularly around water.

With patience and a sharp-eye, they may be sighted at the entrance of their tree-cavity home.

This article was originally published in The Islander March 19, 2014.