"On the Wings of Research" Owl Transmitter Project

by Center for Wildlife
Jul 17, 2013

Outstanding Staff Lend Inspiration to Research!

Great horned owlet juvenile
Great horned owlet juvenile

Center for Wildlife is pleased to announce the addition of our long-time veterinarian Dr. John Means DVM to our Board of Directors and Wildlife Medical Clinic Committee.  John Means, DVM is a practicing veterinarian who has been involved in wildlife rehabilitation since 1979. He holds a Master’s of Science degree in wildlife biology as part of the Ohio Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit. At that time he was involved in putting patagial tags on great blue herons and performing a breeding census of raptors in central Ohio. He was the director of the Hueston Woods Raptor Rehabilitation Center for the state of Ohio. This experiences as a wildlife rehabilitator led him to pursue a veterinary degree. In veterinary school he ran the raptor rehabilitation ward at Ohio State University. Until that time he held a master banding permit but inactivated it because of the time constraints of veterinary school. Since becoming a veterinarian, he has been performing the veterinary work for the Center for Wildlife.  

He works closely with our Wildlife Specialists whom have increased their diagnostics capabilities to include running bloodwork, testing for parasites, and other skills that lead to treating the root of the injury instead of the symptons. This increases our success rate, which ultimately means more wild animals can be returned back into the wild!  John has also been holding monthly workshops for staff, interns, and volunteers enhancing their professional development and learning opportunities.    

Wildlife Specialist Sonja Ahlberg has a B.S. in Environmental Conservation from the University of New Hampshire, and is currently working towards her M.S. in Biology from the University of Nebraska. Beyond an extensive knowledge of native wildlife ecology and physiology, she has a strong veterinary background. Sonja first became interested in wildlife care while working at the Mt. McKinley Animal Hospital as a certified vetirinary technician. The veterinarian that she worked with volunteered her time pinning bones and stabiliizing raptors, cranes, baby songbirds and mammals, and other native wildlife. Sonja was able to observe and take part in many of those surgeries, and also learned to care for orphaned wildlife.

While in Alaska Sonja also worked for the Alaska Sealife Center as a Veterinary Lab Technician, and was responsible for the lab work and diagnostics of the marine and seabird patients admitted there. She also assisted in weighing, handling, and treating those patients. Sonja was also able to conduct necropsies for the center to help determine cause of patient death- allowing for data collection on possible environmental factors, improving medical research, and much more.

Sonja's love for wildlife expanded to field work at her positions with the National Parks and Forestry Services as a Biological and Wildlife Technician. While with the National Parks she conducted surveys in California of a variety of species from the Columbian spotted frog to grizzly bears. She was also able to conduct bat surveys in caves where she helped to determine the presence of bats and maternity colonies- estimating populations and demographics. During her tenure with the Forest Service she conducted surveys in the Pacific Northwest monitoring species such as the pileated woodpecker, Northern goshawk, and white-headed woodpeckers. These surveys help to guide best management practices, and conservation recommendations.

John and Sonja are primed to lead a new owl transmitter project, with options of placing transmitters on owls with ocular damage to one eye, or juvenile owls orphaned at a young age and raised by foster parents at Center for Wildlife.  It is our hope to place at least one transmitter on an owl this season to continue our work finding answers about post-release success.  A transmitter placed on a young great horned or barred owl will paint the picture of whether supportive care through wildlife rehabilitation practices and adult foster parents are adequate to ensure survival in the wild once the owl has "fledged".  Timing of release, hunting practice, hand-feeding at young ages, enrichment, medical, and supportive care are all aspects of raising a young owl and preparing for release may all be factors that can be analyzed and improved based on findings.  This information would then be shared with other wildlife medical clinics and rehabilitation centers across the country so that success rates of young owls released to the wild can soar!  

Itemized Project Budget 

Purchase of one satellite transmitter                                                                            $3400

Refurbishment of existing satellite transmitter (estimated cost)                              $600

Monitoring of two transmitters for 1 year at $500/ transmitter/ year                  $1000

Miscellaneous expenses, office supplies and support                                                    $500

Total cost  $5,500

With no state or federal funding available for wildlife rehabilitation, there have been little studies to determine post-release success rates of patients.  Studies like this are crucial to ensure that the animals with no owners get the best care possible from wildlife rehabilitators, and are able to thrive and reproduce in the wild for their full life span. Healthy wildlife populations lead to healthy ecosystems, and ultimately healthy humans!  We are so grateful for your interest in our work and local wildlife, and are excited to get this new transmitter project off the ground.  


Thank you!

Owlet Perches- Potential Transmitter Candidate
Owlet Perches- Potential Transmitter Candidate
Proud Foster Parents Gaia and Galileo
Proud Foster Parents Gaia and Galileo

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Organization Information

Center for Wildlife

Location: Cape Neddick, Maine - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.thecenterforwildlife.org
Center for Wildlife
Project Leader:
Kristen Lamb
Cape Neddick, ME United States

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