After getting its wing tangled in fishing line, a recovered barn owl prepares to take flight

By Karen J. Quan
Updated December 22, 2009 07:00 PM

When a Salinas, Calif., resident saw a wild barn owl suspended high above her neighbor’s backyard fence, she immediately called the SPCA Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center. Somehow, the bird had managed to get his left wing twisted in fishing line stretched over the yard, and the slightest movements were tightening the owl’s bound wing.

Rescuers noticed the owl was a bit melancholy and lethargic. “He was a little bit dazed,” Dawn Fenton, Community Outreach Coordinator for the SPCA for Monterey County, tells “He wasn’t really flapping or putting up too much of a fight.”

But thanks to the quick thinking and tender touch of rehabilitation technician Jessica Shipman, the helpless bird, whose wingspan measures 3-and-a-half feet, was safely brought down from the high wire and immediately assessed during a field exam. Because he favored his left wing, Shipman and her colleagues felt it best to bring the bird back to the wildlife facility to monitor and manage the poor guy’s pain.

While there is no way to know how long the owl was caught in the fishing line, staffers determined that he suffered no fractures or dislocations to his left wing, and he was showing signs of a speedy recovery the very next day. “His spirits are up and he’s making noise,” Fenton says. “And he’s acting feisty, just like a barn owl should.”

After spending the weekend under the watchful eye of caretakers at the SPCA Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center – which is the only full service wildlife rehabilitation center serving Monterey County – the brave bird could soon find his way back to the wild.

Doctors have scheduled a final exam and will perform a flight test, to make sure the owl can soar on his own. If all goes well, he will be released back into the wild where he was found. “He’s absolutely ready,” Fenton says. “He can hunt on his own and is ready to get back out there into the world.”