SARANAC LAKE - A North Country Community College student saved a barred owl's life on Monday, April 1.
Mark Daby, a liberal arts and science major at the college, arrived on campus that Monday morning to find two crows attacking the young barred owl on the ground.
Upon seeing the action, Daby tried to "shoo" the birds away from the owl. At first, the crows persisted. But Daby didn't give up and eventually scared away the crows.
North Country Community College student Mark Daby with the barred owl he saved on Monday, April 1.
Photo provided by NCCC
"Finally, he was able to push them back enough that he could get in between the owl and the crows and scoop the owl up, and wrapped him up in his coat and brought him into the building," said Bobbie Karp, NCCC director of campus and student life.
With support from professor Judith Steinberg, an avid admirer of owls and science instructor, and Crystal Guimara, an adjunct science instructor, the owl was placed into a box with holes and left in a quiet office to wait for assistance from the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge and Rehabilitation Center in Wilmington.
But the owl was able to get out of the box and explore the office. It was seen resting on the back of an office chair and checking out the top of a file cabinet. Eventually, an intern from the Rehabilitation Center came to get the owl and take it to the center.
On Wednesday of this week, the bird was doing well, said Wendy Hall, a wildlife rehabilitator who runs the center and refuge with her husband, Steve.
She said the center helps the bird by putting it in a stable environment and feeding it a lot.
"Then we test fly them and see if they can live prey hunt, and then they are out on their own," Hall said.
Hall said the center has received calls for about 16 owls in distress since the fall, which is a lot more than past years. She said the winter before this one, she received about a half-dozen calls for barred owls.
"In my experience as a wildlife rehabilitator, I have never seen this many barred owls come in ever in a given season," she said.
Hall said the high number of barred owls coming in this past winter may have been the result of a very successful reproductive year the previous winter. Many of the owls that were rescued likely hatched in March and April of 2012, which was a very warm winter and spring.
The breeding seasons for barred owls starts in February. Hall said the mild winter of 2011-12 meant adult barred owls had a lot of prey, which leads to them having more young. The barred owl preys on small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates.
"These were first-year hatches and they are having a lot of difficulty finding food because this winter was so cold," Hall said. "They get hurt. They've got a lot of disease. It's just a sad thing right now."
Hall said she has received calls locally as well as from surrounding areas such as Port Henry and Ticonderoga.
The reasons the barred owls are brought in vary. They may be suffering from disease, have ingested pesticides or been attacked by other birds. Crows attacking them isn't uncommon, she said.
"This happens to them constantly," Hall said. "We actually had one several weeks ago from Malone that was behind a McDonald's. The McDonald's called us and it was perched on a crow. So while it was being mobbed, it grabbed one and it was eating it. We still have it. It's doing much better but again you feel the (owl) and they're starving. They are so hungry. It's very difficult for them to hunt during the winter because they don't migrate anywhere. They are just here."