Center for Wildlife

Center for Wildlife's mission is to build a sustainable future for wildlife in our community through medical treatment, educational outreach and conservation activities. Our work focuses on strengthening regional capacity to rescue, rehabilitate and return injured animals to the wild; and providing learning opportunities and expanding community outreach programs to teach and inspire people of all ages to help protect local wildlife.
Oct 3, 2012

Fall 2012 On the Wings of Research Report

We have been planning a new phase of this project and submitted a grant request to NWRA (National Association of Wildlife Rehabilitators) for partial sponsorship.

The project leader will be Dr. John Means, a local veterinarian and Center for Wildlife Board member.

The project abstract is as follows: Platform transmitting terminals (PTTs) will be affixed to two rehabilitated owls with unilateral ocular trauma. Their movements and survivorship will be tracked after release. The birds, a barred owl (Strix varia) and a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), will be made available by the Center for Wildlife, in Cape Neddick, Maine.  Both birds will be kept in rehabilitation until change in the visible damage to the eye (as assessed by opthalmascope) has ceased, indicating that remaining damage is permanent. Degree of ocular damage will be assessed by a veterinarian upon initial admission to Center for Wildlife, and again just prior to release. After undergoing rehabilitation, exhibiting adequate flight capability (as determined by staff rehabilitators), and demonstrating the ability to capture live prey in a large flight enclosure, the owls will be released back to the territory in which they were found. They will be tracked as long as possible, and a visual confirmation will be attempted if the birds do not move substantially for a week. If a bird dies, attempts will be made to recover the carcass, at which time radiographs and necropsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

Jun 29, 2012

Owl Makes it Through Toughest Hunting Season!

Center for Wildlife Staff Tracks Owl
Center for Wildlife Staff Tracks Owl

We are pleased to report that our great horned owl successfully thrived for a little over 4 months (approximately 132 days), but saddened to report that she has indeed passed away.  The purpose of our study was to determine whether an owl with ocular damage could hunt well enough to take care of herself, especially during the winter season where many prey are hibernating, have migrated, or are taking cover under snow.  Thanks to this study it is clear that she was able to survive for quite sometime, and based on date of recovery of her body and no satellite movements we can determine that she passed away sometime in the beginning of March.  We had continued to work with Biodiversity Research Institute who offers expertise in field studies and research, and after receiving uncharacteristic satellite data determined that either the transmitter was dislodged or that she had passed away.  We were able to borrow their VHF receiver and GPS equipment and track down the great horned owl.  She was found on the shore in Harpswell, ME; a mainland off the coast of the islands that she had been discovered on, and travelled around for the majority of the time that we were able to track her.  

Center for Wildlife staff immediately brought her remains to the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostics Lab, a medical partner located at the University of New Hampshire.  Part of your funding made it possible to run a complete necropsy by their qualified staff, and try to determine cause of death.  Cause of death could not be determined definitively, however it was noted that she had a fractured radius, and was thin.  If she had been hit by a car, or suffered a fractured radius in another way, she would not have been able to hunt well enough to feed herself which could explain why she was thin.  

Although of course we would have loved the great horned owl to survive for the rest of her life span, we are very encouraged by these findings.  Chris Desorbo, the Wildlife Research Biologist working with us from Biodiversity Research Institute stated "It seems clear that your owl was able to survive despite the ocular injury for some time." Although we may not be able to draw definitive conclusions from one study, the data does show clearly that an owl with ocular damage has a great chance of surviving and caring for themselves for quite some time, and would not necessarily automatically starve to death upon release.  This is very hopeful news for great horned owls who may have been euthanized or automatically placed in captivity for life-time care due to permanent eye trauma.  There also was not much information about island dwelling owls or their movements in Maine, and this study has offered very valuable data.  Center for Wildlife staff, Biodiversity Research Institute's biologists, and the general public were amazed by the great horned owl's travels over the open ocean each night.  The data and maps also offer supporting data to the theory that great horned owls are dedicated to a territory and tend to hunt and live in one area.  

We are so grateful to the donors toward this research project.  There is little to no data or post-release studies on owls with ocular damage, or released patients at all due to no state or federal funding for wildlife medical care. Many centers including Center for Wildlife struggle each year to raise the funding to treat an increasing amount of patients, despite a decreasing amount of donations due to the economy.  Because of your support, we have taken the first step to understanding the best prognosis for a great horned owl with ocular damage.  We were able to recover the transmitter and it is in tact and can pay a fee to have it restored to it's full capacity and battery life (1.5 years).  This means that we will be able to place the transmitter on a new patient, and continue our important research.  Funding toward this project will continue to go toward the equipment, data processing, and staff time to study the next post-released owl.  Thank you!! 

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl's Movements Oct-March


Mar 6, 2012

Great Horned Owl Hunts Successfully This Winter!

Staff and owl board the Hope III to release owl
Staff and owl board the Hope III to release owl

This great horned owl is no ordinary owl in many different respects.  Beyond being one of the first rehabilitated owls to be tracked post-release, she is also an island dwelling owl.  Her rescuers found her at their home on Hope Island, which is one of several small islands off the coast of Portland in Casco Bay.  Her rescuers called often to check on her recovery, and were one of the first lead donors to support the transmitter.  They check in almost weekly to hear reports and updates from the transmitter, and have reported spotting "Hootie" (as they fondly call her) hunting around their property every so often.  Thanks to your donations, we have been able to share updates and maps of the great horned owl's amazing travels over the open ocean on our website and Facebook pages.  Center for Wildlife staff, volunteer, interns, and our community all look forward to the weekly updates, and are amazed that this owl with limited vision not only hunts for herself, but traverses the open ocean regularly. 


As we arrived to the island when we brought her home for release, we could see that the great horned owl had chosen the perfect habitat for herself.  This island and the ones surrounding it offer the perfect open habitat bordered by forest and snags for hunting, nesting, and perching.  Great horned owls are dynamic hunters, with 200-300 pounds per square inch of crushing power in their talons.  Amazing for a 3-5 pound bird!  These birds have an extremely wide range of prey with over 250 species identified.  We were hopeful that she would have a great variety of species in this healthy ecosystem, and it is certainly proving to support her! 


We are so pleased to report that our great horned owl is doing well, and makes some pretty incredible journeys on almost a nightly basis!  The transmitter is set to turn on for 8 hours at a time, and then off for 88 hours (3 days and 16 hours).  This will allow us to retrieve readings every 3 days for the life of the battery- 1.5 years.  We have been amazed to find out that this owl often travels 1-3 km in one evening around the islands surrounding Hope Island.  For the past two weeks she has changed her traveling patterns, and instead of hunting on different islands around Hope, she has been staying put on a small island north of Hope called Bangs Island.  This is great horned owl nesting season, and we are hopeful that she may have found a mate, and is staying put because she is busy incubating eggs in a nest.  Thanks to your support we can find out more about these amazing creatures!    



Great horned owl
Great horned owl's habitat on Casco Bay Islands
Great horned owl
Great horned owl's latest travels
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