By David Fleet
Atlas Twp.- The little half pound owl huddled just inches from the fog line near traffic laden M-15.
“She was sitting right along side of the road,” said Angela Grogan, of Lucy’s Pet Supplies & Feeds, 8159 S. State Road, Goodrich. “I’m not sure how she was not squashed. We found her about 2 p.m., so we figured she was there since dawn.”
Angela’s daughter Lucy first noticed the owl on Dec. 10 near Maple Road and M-15.
“She thought it was a rock along the road,” said Angela. “She then realized that’s not rock it’s an owl.”
Angela arrived a few minutes later and scooped up the female Eastern Screech Owl that was apparently hit on busy M-15.
The Grogan’s drove the owl to the Howell Nature Center located in Livingston County.
The center is home to Michigan’s largest wildlife rehabilitation clinic – caring for more than 4,000 wild animals per year.
Dana DeBenham, director of wildlife and education at the center said the owl had an injured left eye.
“It had been hit by a car,” said DeBenham. “This type of injury is typical for owls, they are tiny and nocturnal flying low to the ground. They often bounce off cars like the little Goodrich owl did.”
The owl is still recovering and the eye has not yet healed.
“Right now the owl is outside with other owls to acclimate to the spring weather. We are currently ‘prey testing’ the owl with live mice. It’s crucial they know how to hunt successfully to survive. It’s still working on that.”
DeBenham said owls can survive with an eye injury since they hunt also use sound in finding prey.
“They often sit quiet in a tree and can locate pray with their hearing from a long distance,” she said. “They hear mice or other rodents rustling through the weeds from a long distance.”
DeBenham said about 70 percent of the owls that arrive into the center are injured due to human interaction.
“They are hit by cars, fly into windows, get caught in fishing line or are attacked by cats and dogs, ”she said. “There is also secondary poison—that’s where people set poison out for mice or rats. After the rodent eats the poison it may not die right away but becomes sick and becomes an easy target for an owl or hawk. They eat it and later die.”
When the screech owl recovers they will return it to Atlas Township near where it was found so it will be familiar to its territory.
The center cares for about 1,000 animals each day.
“Our goal is to get them healthy and return the animal back to the wild,” she said.
The Howell Nature Center relies on fundraisers to keep the clinic open. Check out howellnaturecenter.org for more information.