Have you ever been in a situation where you felt alone, afraid, abandoned and then someone arrived to rescue you? That might sound a little dire, but it is an experience we have all had, whether it was sitting alone in a school cafeteria when someone finally came over to the table, or being stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire when someone stops to see if they can help. The emotions we feel at the time are intense, a combination of relief, gratitude and a touch of apprehension. Even though we know we need the help and are relieved to receive it, we know little about the good Samaritan who has come to our aid. Are their intentions pure? Do they truly mean to help or is there something else at play? Of course we take the help and are thankful for it, but we do so with an element of caution, alert to the risk of the unknown.
Imagine the plight of this fledgling great horned owl (photo above), found in early June by two boaters in Bristol Harbor between Blithewold Mansion and Hog Island. He had been mobbed by a group of seagulls (my apologies for those of you who now have a scene from Finding Nemo stuck in your head) and fallen into the cold waters of Narragansett Bay. The boaters, fireman who were enjoying some well- deserved time off boating in the bay, noticed the gulls attacking something and pulled the owl to safety. They brought him to the Coast Guard who then contacted us. Many times injured wildlife arrive at WRARI's doorstep, but we frequently need to go out to retrieve the animal. In fact, we encourage the community to contact us before attempting an animal transport, as often times the safest course is to secure the safety of the animal and wait for us to arrive at the scene. In this case, WRARI Executive Director Kristin Fletcher responded to the call of a young owl in need.
When I first saw this photo (above) of our friend, the great horned owl, riding on Kristin’s lap, I could sense both relief and fear in the animal’s eyes. She had him wrapped in her coat to warm him up from the cold water. They say our eyes are the window to the soul, and whether you believe that animals have souls or not, or whether or not they have emotions, there is no doubt that when we look into their beautiful eyes, we feel how they feel. When I looked at the owl’s eyes in this photo I sensed that this beautiful creature was relieved to be away from the gulls and out of the water, yet fearful of what would come next.
Our focus at WRARI is to stabilize animals that come into our care and then place them with the appropriate rehabilitators who can prepare them for release back into the wild. In the case of raptors (owls, eagles, and hawks), we work closely with the Born to Be Wild Nature Center in Bradford, RI. Once our rescued owl was warm and dry, we transferred him to their care. I'm happy to tell you that, after a brief stay with them where he worked on his flight skills and put on a few pounds, he was released back into the wild. The folks at the raptor center even managed to figure out where he came from.
As they say on their Facebook page, “After much investigation, it was discovered that he came from a known Great Horned Owl nest in a tall pine tree behind the Saint Columban's Seminary, near the (Blithewold) mansion. We released him last night at sunset with the help of Fathers John and Chuck who showed us to the nest. The young owl shot out of the carrier like a rocket and flew towards a stand of pine trees. Once the nighttime hooting starts, he will find his Mom. Another happy ending!”
In the photo (below) taken before the young owl was released, you can see something different in his eyes. This time they tell the story of a creature that is proud, confident and ready to be free.
For more about the Born To Be Wild Nature Center, see their Facebook page.