Birds in the news: Barred Owl recovering after Massachusetts Turnpike rescue

A Massachusetts Environmental Police officer holds an owl rescued on the Massachusetts Turnpike in Aurburn Saturday morning. Photo by Trooper Michael Golenski | Courtesy of the Massachusetts State Police | Click to enlarge.

When Trooper Michael Golenski arrived at the scene, he saw the Barred Owl in the Turnpike’s breakdown lane, trying and failing to fly.

Goenski is credited with saving the owl’s life as it begins its journey of healing from surgery for a broken wing at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton.

A motorist heading east on Interstate 90 in Auburn Saturday morning reported the struggling bird just before 10:30 a.m. and Golenski arrived shortly thereafter, Massachusetts State Police spokesman David Procopio said in a press release Monday. Golenski then requested the assistance of the state’s Environmental Police as he left to respond to a call for a stranded motorist a short distance away.

Twenty-five minutes later, Golenski returned to check on the owl. He waited with the bird until Environmental Police Sgt. Scott Amati and Officer Jason Dejackome arrived and took it to the Wildlife Clinic at the Tufts veterinary school, Procopio said.

“We hope that all will go well and [the owl] will be released when healed,” Robin Shearer, wildlife program assistant at the clinic, wrote in response to an email I sent Monday.

Tom Keppeler, associate director of communications for the school, told the Boston Globe: “He had a fracture in his humerus. [As of today] the owl is bright, alert, and doing fine.”

Shearer said veterinarians at the clinic performed surgery to insert pins in the owl’s broken left wing over the weekend and that, for the time being, the bird is recuperating in a small cage. Staff will check the owl’s progress regularly to determine when the bone has healed enough for a second procedure to remove the pins.

Then, the road to recovery continues as the bird prepares to regain its flight.

“After a little more time of cage rest the bird will be moved to a larger cage. The cage size will be increased until the bird and bone are strong enough to go into our flight cage. At that time it will stay until it regains it strength and endurance,” Shearer said.

Staff at the clinic believe the owl is a male, based on its weight, adding that while its age is unknown it is fully grown.

When asked whether the bird had earned any kind of nickname following its ordeal, Shearer reiterated her hope that the owl would one day return to its natural habitat. “We do not name the patients as they are wild and we do everything we can to make sure they can be returned to the wild — a name implies ‘pet’ or domestication, and we do not want to jinx them,” she said.

The clinic treated 61 Barred Owls in 2010,  and 48 so far this year. A total of 1,910 patients have received treatment at the clinic to date in 2011.

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