Last week in the Mount Vernon area, dozens of concerned motorists and pedestrians watched as an owl flew wildly into cars, signs and buildings, not knowing what to do to help it.
For days, Animal Control officers received calls from residents who felt sorry for the bird.
On Friday, officers went out to a section of Richmond Highway near Sacramento Drive to investigate the reports.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Fairfax County Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell. “Capturing an owl, even an injured one, is a monumental task.”
Caldwell said officers worked for over an hour trying to capture the owl after he had perched on a wire about 20 feet high above traffic.
With assistance from citizens, patrol officers and the fire department, animal control officers threw towels up at him, prompting him to fly down.
The owl eventually landed in a parking lot and officers were able to safely capture the bedraggled bird.
Animal control officers observed his condition and discovered that it was clearly very thin and malnourished. The owl appeared to be very old and had one eye missing and the other was covered in what initially appeared to be cataracts.”Without his eyes, he would not have been able to hunt very well,” said Caldwell.
The “senior” owl was delivered to the nonprofit Raptor Conservancy of Virginia in Falls Church, where it is currently being rehabilitated. It is expected that the owl will survive; however, it will likely have to live in captivity since its ability to hunt has been severely diminished.
The raptor center’s director, Kent Knowles, said the age and sex of the owl is as yet unknown.
“We have no way of telling exactly how old it is, or even what gender it is yet,” he said.
“It is a Barred Owl, not uncommon for this area, but an owl’s sexual organs are all inside, so we do not know if it is a boy or a girl and because it is so malnourished, we cannot even go by weight or size.”
According to Knowles, Barred Owls can live to be 12 years old, and he said he is amazed that this owl has survived in its current condition.
“It is essentially blind,” he said. “Remarkably the socket—where the right eye is missing—looks like it healed well on its own. The other eye, however, looks like it either has a luxated lens or has cataracts, making it very difficult for this owl to see anything at all.
A luxated lens is a displacement of the lens within the eye.
Knowles said he believes the owl’s appetite is slowly returning and that it will eventually be able to feed itself again soon.
He said the owl will undergo some medical tests and will be seen by a veterinary opthamologist to see what can be done about its eye.
“After we do what we can and get this guy back to a reasonable state of health, we will be looking for a good home for him or her,” he said.
For more information about the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia, go to www.raptorsva.org.