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The Morning Journal
September 27, 2005

Hospital workers get unusual patient

By Jennifer Bracken

LORAIN -- A homeless man's decision to take an injured owl to the hospital just may have saved the wounded bird's life.

small photo of great horned owls Medical workers at Community Health Partners Hospital assisted the injured great horned owl before taking it to a wild animal clinic, according to Jennifer Kennedy, spokeswoman for the hospital.

"He had severe head trauma," said Mona Rutger, director of Back To The Wild, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Castalia that eventually treated the owl. "He was struck by a car or a pickup."

The male owl was taken to the hospital the evening of Sept. 19 by a homeless man who discovered the injured animal. Great horned owls are the largest breeding owl in Ohio, Rutger said.

Kennedy said the owl had to quickly be removed from the building because it is a health risk to bring animals into a hospital.

"The man said, 'Please help. I don't have a phone or a car, but I want to help him,'" she said. "Due to our policy, the animal couldn't be in the facility, so (workers took the owl) to an outside garage and called some vets to find a place for it to go.

"It's not usually the place to take an animal."

Michelle Seeley, a patient care assistant, and nurse Joe Arthur assisted the man and the owl. They were able to reach Rutger, who agreed to take the animal. Arthur took the animal to the facility at 1 a.m., Kennedy said.

Rutger said the animal would have died if the man hadn't taken it to the hospital.

"He probably would not have survived," Rutger said. "He might have stumbled into the roadway, been attacked by another predator or starved."

When the owl arrived at the animal clinic he was still in shock, Rutger said. The owl's pupils were non-reactive, and he had blood in one eye. Aside from his injuries, the owl was in good condition, she said.

"He was hunting and healthy," she said.

The owl was given a steroid shot and fluids as part of the treatment, Rutger said. He did not, however, need any antibiotics. The owl will be put in a conditioning cage in a few weeks to rebuild its flight muscles and will be released back in Lorain County, Rutger said.

"He needs supportive therapy with quiet and in the dark," she said. "You have to disturb the animal as little as possible. You can't poke and prod because the animal is sensitive to human interaction."

The owl can be a dangerous animal to humans when put in a defensive position, Rutger said. Although the animal only weighs three to four pounds, it can apply 1,000 pounds of pressure in its grip, she said.

"In a defensive situation with it trying to survive, the owl could cut a tendon in a human's arm," Rutger said. "They are lucky the animal stayed in a state of shock."

Rutger said the animal is doing well, and it is expected to make a full recovery.

"It will take him several weeks to get his coordination back," Rutger said. "We expect him to have a full recovery and be able to release him back into the wild."

Reprinted courtesy of The Morning Journal, Lorain, Ohio.


For more information on Back to the Wild, a nonprofit organization that relies on volunteers and donations, visit www.backtothewild.com.