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Don't 'rescue' baby owls, wildlife foundation says

(Southwest Wildlife Foundation of Utah)


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CEDAR CITY — The Southwest Wildlife Foundation wants to remind people not to move or touch baby owls they found on the ground and that it’s illegal to keep them as pets.

Southwest Wildlife Foundation of Utah wildlife rehabilitator Martin Tyner has been caring for two great horned baby owls since April because two people found the owls and “rescued” them, according to the organization's website. The owls, one at only 1 day old, were later taken to the Southwest Wildlife Foundation “because they were unable to be returned to the nest,” Tyner said on the website.

The second fledgling was found by a farmer and his children who “thought it would be fun to raise her as a pet,” Tyner said. However, it is illegal to keep great horned owls as pets, according to the Southwest Wildlife Foundation.

“Unfortunately, they were feeding her cat food which gave her a very upset tummy,” Tyner said. “Unfortunately, when people find baby birds of prey they try and give them water, milk, bird seed, lettuce, hot dogs, hamburger or bacon, not realizing how bad those things are for (owls.) Great horned owls eat almost exclusively rodents of all kinds: mice, rats, gophers, etc. This is why (they) are so beneficial to our environment.”

Tyner said if anyone finds a baby owl on the ground, it is normal and people should not bother the bird. Great horned owls often outgrow their nests and leave them before they can fly, but their parents continue to feed them on the ground, he said. The fledglings eventually learn to fly and hunt for themselves.

The owls have been growing rapidly, eating up to 10 mice a day at the Southwest Wildlife rehabilitation center, Tyner said. When the owls finish their “growth stage,” they will be given live mice to catch and will eventually be reintroduced to the wild.

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Faith Heaton Jolley

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