Introducing Gazeau the Great Horned Owl

By Joe Fox, Assistant Director, HOP

GazeauIn the spring of 2013, we (the Hungry Owl Project) received word that there was a non releasable Great Horned Owl at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Oregon needing to find a new home. We'd been considering the possibility of adding an additional "Ambassador Animal" to our program for quite some time. Little did we know the adventure that lay ahead of us.

A year or so earlier, a young Great Horned Owl had been found hopping around in someone's front yard. It was brought into Wildlife Images (wildlifeimages.org), a great wildlife rehabilitation center in Grants Pass, OR. It was discovered that the owl had suffered fractures to a wing. After thorough care for the fracture and extensive physical therapy it was determined that regaining full flight would not be a possibility.

In the wild, owls stand little chance on their own without the ability to fly. Wildlife rehab centers face a major and often heartbreaking dilemma when an animal cannot be returned to the wild. Either, the animal needs to find a home with state and federally licensed caregivers (who can dedicate a tremendous amount of time and resource into caring for the animal) or unfortunately, it ends up being euthanized. It is simply not possible for every animal to remain at rehab centers as they are governed by state and federal rules and regulations and are often already operating at capacity as it is. Wildlife Images immediately set out to find a home for the young Great Horned Owl, but after contacting more than 60 different facilities, they were starting to lose hope. Finally word reached us at the Hungry Owl Project.

Gazeau at Wildlife ImagesAs soon as we heard about the Great Horned Owl we started the process of assembling a team of caregivers, planning for an aviary and updating our state and federal permits for the possible new owl. Things were falling into place until out of the blue, we found out we had to move.

Moving meant not only moving our home office, but also our aviaries where we house Ambassador Owls and birds being rehabbed. Additionally, it was happening during one of our busiest times of the year - deep in owl and hawk rescue and reunite season. Suddenly the possibility of providing a new home for the young Great Horned Owl seemed more difficult than ever and we considered that we may not be able to do it. However, knowing that time may be running out for the owl, we decided to buckle down and try our best to make it work.

After finding a new location for the Hungry Owl Project off of Highway 37 at the outskirts of Novato, CA, we started our move and immediately began construction on a new set of aviaries. Countless volunteer hours went into making this work in such a short period of time. Finally after the dust had settled, we had a new home for HOP and a new aviary waiting for the young Great Horned Owl. One step remained before we could make the trek to pick it up: approval by the state and feds of our permit for the new owl. We submitted the forms and waited to hear back from them. Then the government shut down.

What could we do? Everyone involved had done everything possible to make this work. We had already pushed the time available for the owl to the max. We called the state, we called the feds, few people ever answered and when they did, there was nothing they could do to help. Their offices were shut down and when they finally would reopen, they were going to be incredibly backlogged. All we could do was wait. First we heard back from the state, the state permit was approved, then finally in late November 2013, we heard back from the feds – the federal permit had been approved as well. We immediately made the trip up to Oregon to pick up the Great Horned Owl.

Gazeau at the GateWith that, we are unbelievably excited to introduce you to the newest member of our team, Gazeau (pronounced Gah-zo), the Great Horned Owl. We named her after Camille Gazeau, a recently departed and beloved long time volunteer of both the Hungry Owl Project and WildCare. Initially it was thought that Gazeau was male, but Gazeau is very large, more akin to the size of the larger female Great Horned Owl (males are typically smaller). A recent blood test confirmed that she is a she.

Non-releasable wildlife is a bittersweet topic for us. Ideally, we want all wildlife to be able to live free in its own natural habitat. However, that simply isn't possible with a wing injury such as Gazeau's. Now, she truly will be an ambassador for her species as she plays an important role in educating people about owls and conservation. At the Hungry Owl Project, we will do everything we can to make her time with us as pleasant as possible. We can't wait for you to meet her in person. However, she's currently in training, so it may be a while before she's comfortable enough with people to make public appearances. Please look forward to meeting Gazeau at a future Hungry Owl Project event!

We would like to thank our volunteers and everyone else involved in this endeavor. Everyone stepped up in a big way and we are incredibly grateful for the immense effort that went into making this a success. Look out for more on Gazeau in the near future.

Housing and caring for non-releasable wildlife is an immense and expensive task. Our volunteers do a wonderful job training and caring for our Ambassador Animals, but we cannot do it without your help. Please help us in the care of Gazeau and our other non-releaseable Ambassador Animals by making a tax deductible donation today.



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