ELKINS, W.Va. — On June 5, an Elkins family spotted an adult male barred owl struggling to free itself from a pond near their home. According to the family, the owl was submerged and entangled with one wing in a string and appeared to be exhausted from trying to free itself.
The family said they were unsure of how long the owl was trapped before they spotted it, but Dr. Jesse Fallon, raptor specialist for the Avian Conservation Center of Appalachia, or ACCA, in Morgantown said the injuries suggested the owl had been there overnight.
The family noticed that he needed medical care when they brought him to shore, so they called Randolph County 911, which notified the ACCA.
Jo Santiago, Flying Higher LLC, is an ACCA rescue volunteer and raptor specialist who responded to the call. The owl was in a cardboard box lined with towels when she arrived. Santiago said she knew right away the owl was suffering from hypothermia.
“I knew that bird was in serious trouble, and I didn’t convey that to the rescuers right away because they were hopeful. And I didn’t want to tell them how near death that bird was,” said Santiago.
Santiago administered an electrolyte solution overnight at her house. The following day, the owl was taken to Morgantown to see Dr. Fallon. Fallon said the owl was underweight, weak and had some damaged feathers, but otherwise had no issues. The owl stayed a week with Dr. Fallon in Morgantown before returning to its home territory, where it was released.
“So we sent it off, it was perfect, it just spread its wings—close to a five feet, four and a half foot wing span— and just sailed off across this field,” Santiago continued, “There’s really no way to accurately describe it, to convey to another human being what it is that’s felt unless they are there, so we always make it a point to invite everybody who’s involved in rehabilitating the bird to be present. It’s like when that bird goes back into the wild, a piece of you goes with it.”
Santiago encourages anyone who finds an injured bird to call the ACCA.
The Morgantown facility number is (304) 906-5438.
The owl, named Bard by the family who rescued him from the water, was released back into the wild by Jo Santiago a week after his incident.