Shot Here, Owl Heals and Is Returned to Temescal Canyon
February 09, 2006
Sue Pascoe , Post Contributor
At about 7:30 a.m. in early January, El Medio resident Doreen MacCuish looked out her window and saw
an owl sitting by the family pool. She and her husband David went outside and discovered that it had
'Hawks and crows were circling above the owl, just waiting for it to die,' Doreen said, so while she went
inside to call Animal Control, David stood guard over the owl by waving a broom.
Doreen was told by Animal Control Officer Fredrick Jordan to cover the owl so it wouldn't try to fly injured;
this also protected the owl from predators. She and her husband put a trash can over the bird and waited
for Jordan to show up. He took the owl, kept it warm and quiet, and called Brenda Varvarigos, a volunteer
with the Camarillo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
Varvarigos identified the bird as a male great horned owl (which can live up 50 years) and made sure it
got the appropriate medical treatment.
'This guy was very lucky,' said Varvarigos. 'He was hit in the body in the best place possible in order to
make a recovery. The metal pellet missed the wings and any major organs.'
Back in the Palisades, the MacCuishes and their neighbors heard another owl, circling and hooting. 'She
was crying for her mate,' Doreen said.
'Owls mate for life,' Varvarigas explained. 'It's the nesting season for the great horneds and males are
important. The female probably had eggs that she needed to hatch and the male would help incubate the
eggs as well as defending them from other predators.' Females usually lay between two to four eggs that
incubate in 26 to 35 days.
Metal pellets fired from guns, like the one that hit this particular owl, are illegal within L.A. city
limits. It is also
a federal offense to harm a migratory bird and owls are considered migratory under the Migratory Treaty Act,
according to Varvarigos.
After the owl's wound had healed, Varvarigos took it to the Ojai Raptor Center, where keepers could observe
the owl in flight to make sure it had fully recovered.
Since adult owls tend to remain around their breeding area, last Saturday evening, after being gone from the
Palisades for a month, the great horned owl was released from the same site he had gone down'the
As neighbors and the MacCuishes' children, Kelsey and Ryan, looked on, Varvarigos, using a glove, took the
owl out of his cardboard transport box. She held him for a few minutes.
'The release went great,' Varvarigas said, 'A few flaps and then he spread his wings to almost five feet and
soared up and down into Temescal Canyon. He flew beautifully.'
Although this story has a happy ending, many do not. One of the major problems Varvarigas has encountered
in trying to save birds of prey is that they eat animals like rats or mice that have consumed poisons known as
rodenticides, which work as an anticoagulant that prevents blood clotting and causes the animal to slowly
bleed to death internally. The owl or other bird suffers the same fate as the animal that consumed the poison.
Varvarigas estimated that one out of every five birds brought to her dies because of this reason.
The city is currently looking at legislation that would prevent the use of these poisons in city parks, golf
courses and other facilities within two miles of mountain regions.
For people who insist on using rodent poison, Varvarigas suggested a new product on the market called
Rampage, which kills rodents by basically giving them an overdose of Vitamin B, but leaves owls and larger
The Camarillo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, which rescues birds and mammals, and the Ojai Raptor Center
depend entirely on volunteers and private donations. For more information about ORC, visit
www.ojairaptorcenter.org or call (805)-649-6884. The Web site for CWRC is under construction, but donations
can be sent to P.O. Box 172, Somis, CA 93066. Their hotline is (805) 482-7617, and Varvarigas can be
reached at (818) 346-8247.