Sunday night, Oct. 30, Noah Ireland of Edgefield accidentally hit a barred owl not far from his home. The owl was not killed in the incident but sustained obvious damage to one of his wings. Being a wildlife lover, Noah did not want to put the raptor down. So began a series of phone calls and his family’s journey to find help for Ollie the Owl.
The first call was made by Noah to his parents. That call for help was quite urgent and breathy and went something like, “I just hit an owl. Its wing is broken. Bring a blanket.” After ascertaining a little more what and where, his parents, with little brother in tow, arrived on the scene with blankets and more lights. Mindful of the owl’s powerful beak and talons, Noah first had to untangle the frightened creature from the weeded ditch into which it had fallen. He carefully used gloved hands and unwrapped the somewhat hidden owl from the tangles. Then, gently holding his legs, Noah and his father worked together to cover the bird — which all the while was emitting snapping noises from his powerful beak — while his mom held back the weeds and watched for oncoming traffic. Once sure the owl was completely covered, father and son lifted the creature and, oh, so carefully, placed him into the bed of Noah’s truck. Somewhere between transport from the ditch to the truck the question was posed, “What are you going to do with him?” to which the reply, “I haven’t gotten that far, yet,” was given.
It was decided that a large empty dog crate the family had would serve as the owl’s home for the night. So, as he was being moved yet again from the bed of the truck to the crate, Mom was inside on the Internet seeking rescue help. A few groups in both Georgia and South Carolina were found, but, being such a late hour, no phones were being answered. As only one organization had an answering machine, a detailed message was left in hopes the call would be returned first thing in the morning. That call was returned in the morning, but the news was complicated; Ollie would need to be taken to Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia. This was complicated because of the family’s packed schedule that included, already, an unexpected appointment.
Now that help had been identified, how to get this beautiful, majestic creature to the help became the issue. Into the picture came Tal Mims, family friend and wildlife biologist. Although in training classes himself, Tal took the time to make a few phone calls and found a man he felt might be able to help transport Ollie to Columbia. That man many readers may know as having worked years ago for the National Wild Turkey Federation: Ron Brenneman. Ron and his wife Dori now own and operate Birds & Butterflies, a wildlife bird, nature, and garden store in Aiken. They also coordinate a group of volunteers whose goal is to rescue injured raptors and song birds. Upon contacting Ron, the family was told he would start calling to locate a volunteer to transport Ollie. And so, with news that transportation was being located, Ollie was again loaded up for another vehicle ride. He was handed off in Aiken to one of Ron’s volunteers but not before having to carefully be moved into another crate. The volunteers said that they had never seen an owl with a broken wing that was so feisty!
While the family was sad to say good-bye to Ollie, they have been encouraged to know Ollie has been processed through Carolina Wildlife Center and assigned a case number so that the family will hopefully be able to keep track of him and his progress. The center was able to tell the family that Ollie did, in fact, have a broken wing which they described as “really, really bad and will take a long time to heal.” Fortunately for Ollie, a raptor care specialist was at Riverbanks Zoo when he arrived there. The family has been told his wing will be set, and then Ollie will be moved to one of two raptor rehabilitation centers in South Carolina.
Thanks to the many people who had a hand in Ollie’s rescue! For those interested, Birds & Butterflies hosts several seminars and events each year which include information on how to care for injured raptors and song birds. Those events will begin in January, and a list of them can be found at their website, www.birdsandbutterfliesaiken.com. Ron Brenneman said that they are always looking for more volunteers, as well. Carolina Wildlife Center is a rescue center that relies on donations for support. To learn more about them, visit www.carolinawildlife.org.