Yesterday morning I saw a sight that made me ill to see and that is a Barn Owl hung up on a barb wire fence on the south side of the Centennial Valley. I’ve never seen a Barn Owl here before and both range maps I checked said they are rare to this area so to see one in such a predicament was shocking and gut wrenching. I could see that the owl was alive and then it moved some.
As soon as we saw it Ron and I stopped, took a few images and then hurried over to where the Barn Owl was to try to get it untangled from the barb wire. I hoped it would be easy to get the owl free but it wasn’t. We knew we had to be careful for the owl and for us. We both had gloves so that helped and we had a few tools. The wire cutters were dull though and it made it very hard to cut through the barbed wire. I held the owl’s feet and talons while Ron tried to cut that damn wire. We probably spent 45 minutes trying to get it free and when we did there was still a 9 to 12 inch section of barbed wire attached to the owl’s wing. We wrapped the owl in a towel to see if we could get that section out without hurting the owl any more than it already was. All that time the owl opened its bill but did not attempt to bite either of us though it did get a good grip on Ron’s glove. I can’t get over how light the owl was while I was holding it away from the wire cutters.
We figured at that point we would wrap the owl up and head to where we could get a cell signal to try and locate a rescue or rehab group and take the owl to them. We would have driven any where at that point to save the owl.
We noticed a car was coming from the east and when it slowed down and stopped it was so amazing that it was Bill West, the manger of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge!
There could not have been a better person to show up on that lonely stretch of road than Bill with his wealth of experience. Ron and Bill were able to remove the wire from the Barn Owl’s wing and then we wrapped the owl up in Bill’s jacket. Bill had been heading to Dillon for a meeting but he said he guessed his plans had changed. He took the owl and headed towards I-15 and said when he got a cell signal he would send someone from the refuge to repair the fence.
Later in the day we found out that Bill was going to turn the owl over to the Humane Society in Dillon who would then drive up and meet the people from the Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Whitehall who then took it to Bozeman.
After rescuing the owl from the barb wire all I could think about was the owl and how I hoped it would make it. It was so amazing to see a Barn Owl that close, to hold it and see into those ebony eyes. But the circumstances made me want to cry.
This makes two owls I have seen hung up on barb wire, a Burrowing Owl in Utah and the Barn Owl here in Montana plus I once saw a bat caught up in barb wire in the Centennial Valley too. Can I say LOUD enough that I hate barb wire?
You just never know what you will see when you are out taking photos of birds. I’m glad Ron and I found the Barn Owl, we just hope it survives the trauma and lives. Hopefully we will find out that it did and if we do we will update everyone on the Barn Owl’s progress.
Life is good. It can also be sad and perplexing but still good.
*The Barn Owl was rehabilitated and released on September 30 near the Lower Lake at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Happy ending!