When the juvenile snowy owl with a damaged wing was found on the runway at Quonset State Airport last Tuesday, it was taken to Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island right here in Saunderstown. The owl is just one of more than 3,000 wildlife animals seen at the WRA each year, said Director Jennifer Brooks.
Most of the animals seen by the center, which opened in 1993, are not quite so exotic as the snowy owl.
“We get a lot of birds – gulls, pigeons, sea birds, geese, ducks – mammals, possums, squirrels, fawns in springtime, baby raccoons,” said Brooks. But they’ve had their stars, including a pair of pelicans who ended up here after being blown off course during Hurricane Sandy last year.
And they had a river otter that, sadly, didn’t make it last year after being hit by a car.
The juvenile owl, a female, was given over to raptor rehabilitator Vivian Maxsom, who runs Born To Be Wild Nature Center in Westerly. The owl was a bit thin (4 pounds) and covered with lice, said Brooks. Migration is a stressful time for birds, which could account for the thinness. When a bird isn’t doing well, you tend to see a lot of lice, said Brooks.
“She had a lot, a lot more than I usually see,” Brooks said.
Snowy owls are generally found in Artic regions like Alaska and Canada but are spotted in Rhode Island occassionally. So far this fall, in addition to our Quonset Airport friend, they have been seen in Jamestown, Sachuet Point, and Misquamicut.
Brooks said we tend to see more snowy owls during years when lemmings – their food source – are plentiful. Because the owls are territorial, they need to find their own territory by winter, forcing them in boon years to head farther south.
The injured owl will be rehabilitating for about five weeks, Brooks said. The owl’s ulna was fractured in two places. Right now, the owl is being kept in pretty immobile, while the fractures heal. The owl will eventually graduate to a flight cage, where it can start its own physical therapy.
The WRA of Rhode Island is a nonprofit organization that rely on volunteers and donations. Click here to if you are interested in learning more.