WASHINGTON BORO, Pa. (WHTM) — Raven Ridge Wildlife Center in Lancaster County has a cute new guest: a fledgling great horned owl found in a stream at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle.
This time of year, young great horned owls spend some time on the ground, unable to fly quite yet and still learning hunting and other owl skills from their parents. Of course, spending all this time on the ground means that the owls sometimes get into trouble, “and this owl was definitely in trouble,” says Tracie Young, rehabilitator and director of Raven Ridge Wildlife Center.
Army War College security guard Chris noticed the owl stuck in a stream. He contacted groundskeeper Eric, who scooped the owl out of the stream with a laundry basket and brought it to Raven Ridge.
When the owl arrived at Raven Ridge, he was wet, thin and angry (the anger was a good sign, though) Young says. Workers at the wildlife center were able to warm him up in an incubator and feed him, and he’s doing much better. He now lives with two other young great-horned owls and their foster parent, Pharaoh.
Pharaoh is an adult great-horned owl that is unable to survive in the wild due to a wing injury restricting his flight. Instead, he serves as an education animal with Raven Ridge and, more recently, a foster parent for the center’s adolescent great-horned owls.
Pharaoh shows the young birds how to hunt, how to groom, how to make owl sounds like clicking, and just generally how to be an owl. “I watch them from around the corner,” says Young, “they watch him, and they listen to him.”
It’s important for the young owls to learn all those skills so they can survive in the wild, but it’s also important that they grow up with another owl so they don’t imprint on humans. Young explains that owls imprinted on humans can be violent because they see people as competition or as threats.
The owl from the Army War College and his two young companions will be released near the end of the summer when they are able to survive on their own.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for baby animals — owls and otherwise — to fall and get stuck places. “They’re just doppy. They don’t know the lay of the land yet, they’re still learning…how to hunt for food,” says Young.
If you see a baby animal you think may be in trouble, you can call Raven Ridge at 717-808-2652. Young or someone else from the organization will help you determine if the animal needs help, and they’ll talk you through how to safely rescue the animal if it’s in danger. Not all young animals on their own necessarily need help, so it’s important to check in with an expert before interacting with the wildlife.