Great Horned Owl Release

I am a volunteer at the World Bird Sanctuary near St Louis, Missouri. On February 21, 2009, we were lucky enough to be able to release a great horned owl back into the wild. My children and grandchildren came along for the release. February marks the fourth anniversary of my husband's passing to the next realm. Owl is his spirit guide. My coworkers at the WBS granted me the gift of being able to release this little owl in Rich's memory.

The day dawned cold and windy, with spits of snow. I thought: "Oh dear, what an awful day to get out of jail." A couple of hours later, however, the clouds began to break. Eventually the sun came out, although it remained quite blustery.

>I picked up the little owl at WBS. We drove him to a state park near our home. It was interesting in our ride to the park that his eyes never strayed from me. I was sitting in the back seat by his carrier. I can only think that he was worried about my intentions. However, once we entered the park, I was forgotten. He could see the bare trees silhouetted against the sky and fastened his unwavering gaze on them. It is tempting to assign human feelings to animals. In this case, I would have to say that his expression was longing -- longing for what he knew was the familiar -- the deep woods of home.

Here is the owl in the animal carrier, preparing to return to the world.


I have taken him out of the crate here. The long leather gloves and safety goggles are necessary to protect against his powerful feet and sharp talons. He is capable of crushing the skulls of his prey with these tools of his trade. In our region, great horned owls consume mice, rats, possums, skunks, squirrels, and other birds, particularly nestlings.


Close up of his handsome face and huge eyes.....


Close up of his very large feet.... He was banded shortly before release for future identification.

This particular owl was brought to the World Bird Sanctuary with an open wound. He stayed in the rehab hospital for a few days, then was placed in the large flight cage outdoors to become re-acclimated to outside conditions. While there, he was encouraged to fly and exercise. Perches are located up high while their food (killed rats) is placed close to ground level. In addition, staff members visit the flight frequently to observe how the birds are progressing with their flying abilities. It is an awesome experience to be in the flight while the owls swoop silently overhead.


Here is my granddaughter Maddy and me with the owl. He watched her every movement. What was he thinking? "Is that food?" "Is that thing going to eat me?"


The owl flies free again, going home, going home.

If you enjoyed these pictures and the little story, I hope you will visit the WBS link posted, and learn more about these beautiful raptors. If you live in the St. Louis, MO area, I hope you will come by in person to visit us.



Photos and text copyright 2009-2010.

Author: Sue Evans

Watch the video of the owl release on YouTube.

Some of our other web pages:

Raptors! ( A look at some of the patients at the World Bird Sanctuary Rehab hospital )

The Aurora Page ( Northern Lights! )

Annoying Parrots, and their Enablers ( Our gang )

Future home ( North to Alaska, going north.... )

This page is dedicated to Rich. Forever, and for always.
Rich designed the background of this page, some years ago.

This page created February 2009, updated 28 July 2010.