Owl Encounter

picture of a boreal owl sitting on a tree branch

Boreal owl sightings are becoming more common in Grand Marais

With the recent influx of owls coming to Grand Marais out of Canada, gray and boreal owl sightings are becoming more common.  I was not prepared, however, to be hit by one.

On my way home I heard the “thunk” of something hitting my car’s door.  Since I hadn’t seen any deer making their usual mad dash across the highway, I craned my neck to see what it might have been.  In my rearview mirror, I saw a gray lump on the shoulder of the road.  Making a couple of u-turns, I pulled up to investigate.

I realized that a small owl had hit the car, probably while diving after some prey.  I went to pick it up and get a good look at my first boreal owl.  To my surprise, it was still alive.  To its surprise, there was something trying to pick it up.  It managed to flutter up to a birch tree, but quickly lost its balance and hung upside down from the branch.

I scrambled through the knee deep snow to stand under it, not giving high odds on it surviving the crash.  As I stood there, I could see it lose its grip on the branch, one talon at a time.  It finally fell to the ground, landing upright in the snow.  I could see that the owl was stunned, so I thought I could at least keep it sheltered during its struggle.   I put on my gloves and scooped up the bundle of feathers, holding it loosely, but close enough to shelter it from the cold & wind.

During the next five minutes, I watched the owl as it peered around, looking sleepy with one eye closed and the other barely open.  It shifted enough to hold onto my hand, with an occasional glance up at me.  I thought of taking it home (just 2 miles away) and letting it recuperate there but every time I made a move back to the car, it would mantle its wings and become agitated.  So the two of us stood there, me with snow melting in my shoes, the owl huddled in my hands fighting its injuries.

I finally started back to the car, holding my hand out.  The little owl opened both its eyes, looked around, and flew up the tree with no indication of any physical injuries.  We watched each other for a few moments, as I mentally shouted with glee over the interaction and the belief that I might have helped this creature survive a while longer.

Have you had any owl encounters? Please tell me below in the comments.

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One Response to “Owl Encounter”
  1. Tom
    04.02.2013

    Way to go Beth, I commend you on your effort with Mr Owl (Mrs?). Amazing how lightweight they are despite their size! Many of these guys get stunned on the road only to be hit again before they recover. Well done.
    Think about this again next time you hear a “hoot, hoot” on a clear night!!
    Tom F.


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