Great horned owls are protected animals, with one being more thankful for a helping human hand than any of the others after being rescued Wednesday from a barbed wire fence.
The bird became tangled in the fence on Concord Road in Warren County sometime Tuesday night and struggled to free itself until about 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday when Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency officer Marty Griffith came to its aid.
An effort to save the bird began at approximately 8 a.m.
“My heart went out to it,” said Laverne Vaughn of seeing the bird for the first time. “It was hanging there by one wing struggling to free itself. When I got close, it stopped and looked at me as if saying ‘help me.’”
Vaughn, and later a Warren County postal employee delivering mail, began contacting agencies trying to get the bird some help.
“I saw the bird at about 11 a.m.,” said postal carrier Sandra Floyd. “It was a beautiful bird. It hadn’t given up on surviving, but being trapped in the fence was taking its toll. It only struggled when you got close. It’s eyes were still clear though and alert.”
According to fellow TWRA officer Pete Geesling, the bird’s wing feathers were wrapped in the barbed wire but it appeared relatively unhurt.
“He’s in pretty good shape,” said Geesling. “His wing feathers were caught. I don’t believe the wing was broken, but he will have to be examined to make sure. He has been taken to a rehabilitation expert who works with birds of prey. He will be in good hands.”
Great horned owls are nocturnal and are the largest owls nesting in Tennessee. They are easily identified by their large size, ear tufts and yellow eyes. Females can weight up to 4 pounds, while males are somewhat smaller. They have a wing span of 4-5 feet and can stand 1.5 to 2 feet tall.
Vaughn says the bird was tipping the scales.
“It was a large bird,” she said. “I didn’t dare try to rescue it. I didn’t know if it was suffering. They are protected so you can’t kill one.”
Great horned owls are protected under the Migratory Bird Act. The act protects all species that are listed from removal, hunting and commercial trade. All nests, feathers and eggs are also protected under the act.
Vaughn and Floyd offered thanks to the bird’s rescuer.
“I’m so thankful the bird was rescued,” said Vaughn. “I couldn’t stand to see it struggling for survival. Who knows how long it hung there before it was discovered at 8 a.m. or how much longer it could have survived.”
Once the bird is assessed and treated, if necessary, it will be released back into the wild.