MONTEREY – A northern pygmy owl that reportedly struck a window and was unable to fly due to an injured wing is set to recover in the Monterey County SPCA.
Sona Dennis came out of her Carmel Highlands home on the morning of August 18 to replenish seeds in a garden bird feeder and felt something next to her foot. When she looked down she saw it was a little owl lying on its back with its wing flapping against its foot and unable to straighten up.
“He jumped up and tried to fly, but he just looked at me with those big eyes,” Dennis said on Friday.
Dennis and her husband Steve Dennis stayed behind and observed the owl, as people should when encountering injured wild animals in case the animal is just stunned and after a few minutes of rest can walk or fly away.
There was clearly something wrong with his wing and he wasn’t going to be able to fly. The couple took a photo of the bird and sent it to a neighbor, Karen Krieger, who is passionate about birding and also sits on the board of directors of the Ventana Wildlife Society.
Krieger immediately identified him as a northern pygmy owl, which as an adult is only about 6 inches tall. Knowing the bird rescue protocol, Krieger helped make a cardboard box with ventilation holes to keep the owl in the dark, reducing stress on the animal.
Northern pygmies are quite common in the coastal canyons of Big Sur. Their main prey are the smaller songbirds and they tend to fly low during an attack. According to the Cornell University Ornithology Lab, owls are birds of prey like raptors such as hawks or hawks, but they are distinguished from other raptors as being primarily nocturnal hunters. Their large eyes allow them to see prey in the dark.
Krieger placed the box on the passenger side floor of his car and “drove as calmly as possible to the Monterey County SPCA.”
Beth Brookhouser, vice president of marketing and communications for the SPCA, said on Friday the owl was doing well but remained in a cage as she treated a soft tissue injury to her right shoulder.
“It’s starting to fly but is still weak,” Brookhouser said. “He wouldn’t have survived if the locals hadn’t brought him. He eats voraciously, so that’s a good sign.
After a few days of cage rest, the SPCA staff will move him to an outdoor aviary where he will fly more and replenish muscle tissue so that he can hunt once released into the wild, ideally near the Dennis residence where he has been. find.
Brookhouser said they occasionally receive northern pygmies at the SPCA’s Wildlife and Rehabilitation Center just off the Monterey-Salinas Highway. The center also receives a number of little owls, also tiny creatures that inhabit the Monterey area.
Another recent rescue was a skunk that someone had trapped and then thrown into an embankment 30 feet off Laureles Grade, still inside the cage. Brookhouser said tourists stopped at an assembly to take in the view of the Carmel Valley from the ground and spotted the cage among the trash also dumped down the hill.
“He would have suffered and died a slow death,” she said. “We are really grateful to the tourists who stayed there until we arrived.”
It is illegal in California to trap an animal and remove it from where it was found. In any new location, he will not know where water and food sources are and may starve.
“This person had many other options,” said Brookhouser.
The Monterey County SPCA can offer expert advice on how to deal with unwanted wildlife. If an animal lives under a house, the best thing to do is to trap it, seal the access point under the house, and then release it in place.
Wild animals enter residential areas in search of food, water or shelter, Brookhouser said. The best preventative action is to not leave food, such as cat food, out at night and put it in instead. The wildlife, once they know there is no food source, will move to another location.
Those interested in donating to the wildlife center can find more information at https://www.spcamc.org/programs-resources/wildlife-rescue-rehabilitation/wildlife-rescue.html.