Great horned owlet renested 80-feet up!
By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital
Two great-horned owlets were among the 77 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.
The two owlets were admitted last week after high winds compromised their nests causing the owlets to fall to the ground. One owlet was found in Bonita Springs, the second was from Veterans Park. Both babies suffered minor injuries when they fell which required several days of pain medication and supportive care before they were cleared for renesting.
When asked, Ian Orlikoff, owner of Signature Tree Care, willingly offered his time, staff and equipment to help with the renesting.
Von Arx Hospital staff and volunteers first went to Veterans Park where members of the Maintenance staff were eager to help. Signature Tree staff members were there with their bucket truck. When we assessed the scene, multiple concerns were noted, one being the nest was approximately 80 feet up in the tree which was much higher than we originally estimated. The bucket truck wouldn’t reach the nest so a new plan was formulated for the next day.
The renesting crew then moved on to the nest site in Bonita Springs. Once the site was assessed Signature Tree Care staff member, Jesse Porkarski, operated the bucket truck. He attached a wicker laundry basket “nest” to the tree and carefully placed the owlet inside. A nest check at dawn the following morning revealed one of the parent owls in the nest with the other parent perched in a nearby tree. One successful family reunion down, one to go.
Staff from Signature Tree Care met Wildlife Hospital volunteers, Tim Thompson and Susan Ferretti, at Veterans Park. This renesting was completely different. The mother owl was sitting on the nest with one owlet at the very top of the 80-foot tree. The nest was not sturdy enough to return the “fallen” owlet so Ian would need to attach a new wicker laundry basket nest, retrieve the baby from the top of the tree, put that owl in the nest and return the “fallen” baby to the nest as well.
The height of the tree made this an extremely difficult endeavor. Ian is highly skilled but couldn’t guarantee our plan could work until he got up the tree and assessed the strength of the branches at the top of the tree.
Ian executed the plan perfectly. Colby Kehres operated the equipment from the ground as Ian maneuvered up the tree using a mechanical pulley system. Using a harness and ropes, Ian climbed the remaining ten feet to reach the baby in the nest. Both owlets were safely placed in their new nest while the adult owls watched from their perches in nearby trees.
A check on the nest the following morning showed the mother owl in the basket; both babies alert and strong as she fed them a freshly caught rabbit. The father owl was perched nearby chasing off every bird that flew too close to the nest.
Thank you so much to everyone involved with successfully reuniting these owlets with their parents. Visit the Conservancy’s Facebook page to see more pictures from the owl renestings.
Thirteen brown pelicans, four royal terns, a common grackle, an anhinga, a bald eagle, a gray catbird, an eastern cottontail, two gopher tortoises, an eastern screech owl, a yellow-bellied slider and a Florida box turtle were released this past week.
Opportunities to Help
Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Hospital staff are incredibly busy providing medical treatment and care to our patients. If you feel like you could donate your time, either in the hospital working with staff, or as a critter courier helping rescue and transport injured and orphaned animals to our facility, then fill out a volunteer application and get involved. You’ll be glad you did. Your volunteer time, donations, and memberships are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.