Patient Number 2012-02217 Asio Flammeus
 A Short Eared Owl

Patient number 2012-02217 was a short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) that was presented for care on the day before Christmas in 2012. The owls’ care continued into 2013 as we tried to find a way to fix what a human had broken.

Found on the ground at the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area in Upper Freehold, the owl was transported to us by Shannon Martiak from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. A cursory exam revealed an injury to the left wing which had made flight impossible and had grounded the bird. A radiograph indicated a medial fracture of the left humerus - the large bone between the shoulder and the elbow- was broken in the middle. The culprit??  A pellet – as clear as can be on the radiograph.

The owl had been shot.

It is important to add at this point that, as a group, I have found hunters to be responsible stewards of the environment and the wildlife in the habitats that they use for hunting. Perhaps for no other reason than they want the resources available for more of what they like to do. We have had hunters stop a day of hunting to bring an injured baby bird that they found on the ground or a nest of rabbits carried in their hat. However, like any other large group of people, there are the “Oh-So-Bad”, bad apples. Anyone who takes target practice on federally protected species belong to that group.

The owl endured two surgeries in an attempt to repair the wing. A pin was placed in the bone to stabilize the fracture for healing. Shortly after the second surgery, the owl removed the pin on its own. We can only imagine that the wing was very painful and the bird was trying to somehow alleviate the pain by getting rid of anything that it felt did not belong. Sadly, a second radiograph on January 9th indicated that the owl had done more damage trying to remove the pin and the fracture was beyond repair. The owl was humanely euthanized. A very sad ending to a pointless act of violence. 

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