Couple saves owl near Paulden home
PRESCOTT - Just as people are noticing more great horned owl nests in the Prescott region this year, people seem to be helping the critters more often, too.
The Daily Courier has heard of three fledgling great horned owl rescues in the region this spring, with the latest occurring in Paulden.
Unlike the last two owls that were injured and needed transport to wildlife rehabilitation facilities, this Paulden owl was uninjured, thanks to the help of Jerry Hoover and his wife Leota McCown-Hoover.
The Hoovers have watched ravens nest in a pine tree next to their home for the past three years, but this year a pair of great horned owls kicked the ravens out and took over their nest.
Leota said she and her husband frankly were happy with this new arrangement, because the ravens were washing off their dead prey in the Hoovers' bird bath and scaring off the songbirds.
But the Hoovers were sad to find that one of the two fledgling great horned owlets fell out of its nest and died.
So when they saw the second owlet in trouble May 18, they were determined to help.
The young owl was on the ground in a pile of pipes and bricks, apparently trying to get over a fence.
After watching it struggle for a few hours and apparently unable to fly, the Hoovers feared it could hurt itself on the fence or get attacked by a predator.
After an unsuccessful Internet search for a contact, Jerry called the Sheriff's Office for advice, got an Arizona Game and Fish Department number, and then received the numbers for two local wildlife rescue volunteers.
One of the volunteers (who didn't want his name published) quickly came over and put the owl back in the tree, explaining the owl could use its claws to crawl back up to its nest.
The Hoovers watched the owl working its way around on the tree limbs, but they didn't see it the following day. Then on May 20, Jerry saw it struggling along the fence line again.
Since he had watched the technique that the Game and Fish volunteer used to pick up the owl, Jerry figured he could do it too.
The volunteer also had mentioned that if the owl got a hold on him with its claws, it would be hard to loosen the owl's somewhat automatic grip.
Jerry knew it wasn't going to be like picking up his pet African Grey parrots.
"He's a pretty good sized bird," Jerry admitted. "He could hurt you real bad."
But he didn't hesitate to don some gloves and pick up the owl.
"I was more worried about him hurting himself," Jerry said of the bird. "He never tried to attack me or bite me or anything.
"It was a real neat experience."
This time, Jerry put the owl in a tree on the other side of the fence, which also happened to be near the owl's parents that were intently watching the situation.
Jerry and Leota didn't see the young owl in the following days, but they have seen the parents.
"His wings are developed and he was ready to fly, so we hope he made it," Leota said of the owlet.