Yellowstone Reports

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Return to the Wild

Have a Good Life!
by Dan Hartman

April 30, 2016

    All spring I've been trying to get a glimpse of a boreal owl.  And I have now and then.  But on Wednesday I got a good long look and it broke my heart.

     About 10 in the morning I got a call from Tom at the Cooke City Post Office.  It seems an owl with a vole was lying just a short distance from the post office door.  I hurried to town and didn't like what I saw.  A male boreal owl was lying upside down on the concrete.  At first sight he looked to be dead, but as I knelt down he opened his big yellow eyes.

  Still expecting the worst, I collected the little fella and put him in a box for transporting.  As an after thought, I tossed in the vole.

     I've found injured and road killed owls many times in the past but finding the boreal at this place and time hurt more than ususal.  You see, I heard this little owl singing his mating call back in March just west of Cooke City.  I figured his mate nested and their eggs were laid about two weeks ago.

     Bottom line, if this guy doesn't survive, neither will the nest.

     When I got him to the cabin, I examined him best I could.  I was thinking about giving him a bit of energy drink, when he seemed to come alive!  For the next two hours, we checked on him every 15 minutes or so.  Mostly he slept.

     Early afternoon,  Cindy and I boxed up the little owl and drove him to the area I heard him singing last month.  We then walked along the creek until I found a thick stand of spruce.  There we carefully placed him on a low branch and placed the vole beside him.  Instantly, he dropped to the ground and started running across the forest floor.  We followed him.  Then he made a short flight.  About 10 feet.  Then another.  About 20 feet.

     I lost him, then located him tucked under an uprooted tree.  There he fell asleep.

     Late afternoon, Cindy and I returned to check on him.  He hadn't moved.  I retrieved the vole and tossed it in beside him.

     It was mid afternoon the next day before I found time to return and check on the little fella.  He was gone and so was the vole!  Also whitewash covered the ground.  

     At least his insides were working.  There were no feathers, so he seemed to leave of his own free will.  That's good.

     Well, little owl.  Have a good life.  I'll listen for you next spring.




View slide show

Boreal Owl

He Looks Dead

Owl In A Box




Hiding With Vole

Nesting Cavity?