Monday, June 20, 2011

One of Nature's Greatest Hunters is in for Recovery After a Smelly Defeat

One of rehab’s newest patients is in our care after losing a foul-smelling encounter with its prey. The great horned owl is one of the Striped Skunk’s only natural predators, but this particular owl that was brought in to us was not successful in his attempt to make a skunk his meal.

Although great horned owls are incredibly strong and have no natural predators in this area, they are not invincible. Our patient came in with puncture wounds to his foot and skunk spray covering his body, including his eyes. Our rehabilitation staff was able to clean out his wound and rinse the skunk spray out of his irritated eyes. We are hopeful for a successful recovery for this majestic bird of prey.

Great horned owls are the largest owls that breed in Ohio. Male and female great horned owls are identical in appearance; however the female tends to be larger than the male. They are one of the three common Ohio owls found in all three major habitats, rural, suburban and even urban. Because they prefer some open area for hunting, great horned owls tend to avoid extremely forested terrain. They can best be found by hearing their traditional hoo-hoo-hooo call.

Male and female great horned owls are identical in appearance, but the females are larger than the males although this can be hard to detect without actually weighing them. They have an almost “tiger-like” striping on their chest and belly which is one reason for their nickname “Tiger of the Woods.” Great horned owls also have a patch of white feathers under their chin, giving them an even more unique appearance.

Great horned owls are the earliest birds to nest, but instead of building their own nests, they use the abandoned nests of hawks, eagles, squirrels and other nesting animals. They prefer nests in large, old trees, but if those are unavailable, they will use old buildings, cliffs and if absolutely necessary, the ground. Great horned owls are monogamous mates and the male will remain with the female, even helping to bring food for her and the owlets once they have hatched.

As always, if you see an animal that you believe to be injured or if you have backyard wildlife questions, please contact Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-871-2900.

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