Short-eared Owl Fledgling Barbed Wire Injury

/, Box Elder County, Short-eared Owls, Utah/Short-eared Owl Fledgling Barbed Wire Injury

Short-eared Owl fledgling caught on barbed wireShort-eared Owl fledgling caught on barbed wire – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

As a bird photographer I see many amazing things but I also see things that make me feel as if I have been punched in my gut and yesterday I experienced that punched in the gut feeling again. I was photographing in northern Utah when I spotted an adult Short-eared Owl along the road perched on a sagebrush stump that had been pulled out of the ground to make way for a new fence this spring. Right after seeing the adult I also saw a fledgling Short-eared Eared Owl about 8 to 10 feet from the adult hung up on barbed wire. I think this one image of the fledgling says it all for me.

Gut punch.

Then I saw it move its head and knew that it was still alive. Ron and I turned around and went back to the fledgling. We have been through this before in Montana with a Barn Owl caught on barb wire and we knew we needed to get the fledgling off of that fence and in the hands of a rehabber as soon as possible.

While we were trying to get the owl removed from the fence I was calling friends for help and reached Jerry Liguori and Mike Shaw, both of whom work for Hawkwatch International in Salt Lake City. Once the fledgling was removed from the fence and wrapped in a towel it was time to head towards help. Jerry, Mike and myself were all calling WRCNU (Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah) in Ogden trying to reach one of their staff to let them know about the owl.

I rode more than 90 miles with the young owl on my lap wrapped in the towel and was amazed at how light it felt. It was bright-eyed, didn’t appear to be dehydrated so it is possible we came upon it not long after it got caught in the fence. Inside the towel it wiggled, stretched, clacked its bill and hissed.

I’m used to photographing Short-eared Owls using my 500mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter attached so they look large when I am viewing them through my viewfinder but seeing them up close and having held this fledgling makes me realize just how small they really are.

After failing to reach anyone at WRCNU we met Mike Shaw at Hawkwatch International where he took the owl and then handed it over to a person heading to WRCNU. I haven’t had an update on the fledgling yet but I hope that it is doing well.

I want to personally thank Jerry and Mike for going above and beyond with their support and help in the rescue of this Short-eared Owl fledgling, you two are great at what you do and I am sincerely thankful that you both picked up the phone to help. We needed you and you both came through.

I hope to get an update on this fledgling today.

I hate seeing wildlife caught in barbed wire. I am glad we found this owl alive and that were were able to get it removed from the fence and into caring hands. I hope its wing isn’t broken and that it will be successfully rehabilitated and released just like the Barn Owl in Montana was.

Fledgling Short-eared Owl stretchingFledgling Short-eared Owl stretching – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 320, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I wanted to share just one more image of a Short-eared Owl fledgling, wild, free and not caught up in barbed wire. Just doing what young owls do.

Life is good. It can also be sad, frustrating and perplexing but still good.

Update: Good news! No broken bones, needed a few stitches, this little owl ate all its food and it looks like it can be released if it does well in rehab!



  1. Stephen June 25, 2016 at 8:31 am

    I’m glad it is on the mend!

  2. dinahmow June 21, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Wonderful news.Thank you.

  3. Elephant's Child June 20, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    The update is BRILLIANT. Thank you, Ron and the myriad other people involved. So much.

  4. Grace Dunklee Cohen June 20, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Mia – add another title to your resume: “Defender and Protector of Wildlife”! Thank you for your deep caring and committed actions on behalf of wildlife!

  5. M. Bruce June 20, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Heartbreaking photo but hopefully a happy ending. Great work!

    • Mia McPherson June 20, 2016 at 1:54 pm

      M. Bruce, I tried responding to your email but it bounced back to me. I’ll answer here though and hope you get it. You need to sign up for an account here: You don’t need a blog or any thing.

  6. Cindy June 20, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    I hope he/she will be ok! Good thing you were there to find it in time.

  7. Mia McPherson June 20, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Good news! No broken bones, needed a few stitches, this little owl ate all its food and it looks like it can be released if it does well in rehab!

  8. dinahmow June 20, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    From far away, across the Pacific, I thank you.Barbed wire is hateful stuff and I’ve seen far too many terrible injuries and deaths. I hope the outcome is a good one.

  9. Liz Cormack June 20, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    I hope this owlet comes through as well as the Barn Owl did. Good work, Mia, Ron, Jerry & Mike.

  10. Nicole Haller-Wilson June 20, 2016 at 10:02 am

    😩😩😩😩😩😩 argh! I hate barbed wire… I am so glad it was you who came across this lovely creature, you who knows people in rescue…. I look forward to an update ❤️❤️❤️

  11. Kathryn Duchene June 20, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your stories and photos of these spectacular birds – and for the work you do to help them.

  12. Roger Burnard June 20, 2016 at 6:29 am

    This story, and photo confirms that both you, and Ron are “good people.”
    Too many folks would never have notice, or cared, and would have just
    driven on by. For the owl that you helped, I thank you. Well done, Mia,
    and Ron, very well done. ;-)))

  13. Neil Rossmiller June 20, 2016 at 6:28 am

    You and Ron are my heroes. …Again!!!

  14. suzanne Mcdougal June 20, 2016 at 6:04 am

    Oh, man. That could have been one of the ones I saw and I would have been unprepared to help. Note to self to carry a towel and wire cutters. I have already had to rescue a barn owl, hit by a car, but it didn’t make it. Owls and children are gut wrenching. This owl was kind of both.
    Jerry is pretty amazing. So are you and Ron.

  15. Bob McPherson June 20, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Beautiful photos Mia. A great story of saving the Owl. Happy that you care as you do.

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