After receiving new feathers and rehabilitation, a snowy owl that was apparently hit by a bus in Washington D.C. in January was released into the wild this weekend.
The Raptor Center clinic manager Lori Arent said the bird recovered from internal and head injuries at another wildlife rehabilitation center in Washington, D.C. He was brought to the University of Minnesota campus in St. Paul for treatment because he had many badly singed feathers.
"We were looking at either providing the bird with these new feathers through this procedure or holding the bird one to two years for it to go through a complete molt," Arent said. "From our perspective, the longer you keep a bird in captivity, the less the chance for survival."
The clinic replaced 18 of the bird's feathers with plumes from similarly-sized birds that didn't survive. Arent cut the owl's damaged feathers down to about one inch.
"Since feather shafts are hollow, I could whittle about an inch of bamboo so it would fit into the hollow feather shaft of the replacement feather," Arent said. "The bamboo acts as a connecting pin."
Arent said the replacement feathers will remain with the bird until it molts.
The owl was set free along with another snowy owl near Superior, Wis. on Saturday. The area was chosen because the abundance of prey makes it a popular seasonal habitat for the arctic snowy owls.
"The birds that are normally there during the winter have moved north already, so we know the space is open so there won't be any competition when he first sets off," Arent said. "We expect he may stay there for a few days, but his migratory nature will stimulate him to move north pretty quick."
Julia Ponder, D.V.M., executive director of The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota released the owl.
She said the snowy flew off with strong steady wingbeats.
"He is in great condition and will hopefully head back north in the coming days," said Ponder.