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Birds rehabilitated, released

Several owls are once again flying free after being rehabilitated by Bubba and Friends Inc. of Pike County. Four great horned owls were released in September and others ‘“ including barn owls, barred owls and screech ‘“ have been released throughout the year. Steve Hicks, director of Bubba and Friends, said the four owls released are the first birds of prey to be released who were raised in the facility’s new flight pen. ’These are some the owls of the graduating class of 2013,’ he said. ‘Charger took a long time to recover and the other three came in as juveniles. We let him be the role model for the younger owls. That’s why we released them all together. Now, all four of them have a new home near the Ocmulgee River.’ The 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization does not receive any funding other than donations. Go to bubba-and-friends.org to learn more about the raptor rehabilitation that goes on here in Pike County. Donations can now be made online at the website or checks may be mailed to Bubba and Friends, P.O. Box 103, Zebulon 30295. For volunteer Thomas Rogers, the recent release of the four owls was a momentous occasion. ’Every once in while I get the chance to take part in an extraordinary event. This time it was the release of rehabilitated birds of prey into the wild,’ said Rogers. ‘My wife and I assist a local raptor rehabilitator with transportation and sometimes the release of these magnificent creatures into the wild. We released four great horned owls. Three were orphaned as chicks that needed to be nurtured into mature birds capable of hunting for themselves.’ The fourth, an adult male, Charger was tangled in an electric wire and suspended upside down for an unknown length of time. He was hanging upside down so his head was touching the wet ground. His left leg was wrapped in the silver electric wire, preventing him from escaping. When the property owner found Charger, he immediately disconnected the electrical current and cut the owl out of the wire. He was in bad shape after having low voltage electrical current flowing through the wire on is leg and into his body, exiting through his head that was in contact with the wet ground. ’When we got him he was unable to stand. His leg was immovable in an extended position. Both eyes were fully dilated in the sunlight,’ said Hicks. ‘He acted like half of him was a stuffed owl and the other half might be real. We’ve never seen anything like this.’ Pike’s Dr. Jennifer Gardner examined the owl and offered suggestions for his recovery. He was unable to stand so he was hand fed for three days. By seven days, he was standing. By day 20, he was standing and eating on his own. The biggest concern was his vision. By day 87, his pupils were dilating and contracting in regular light. Finally, on day 122, his eyes were reacting normally. ’With his successful recovery and the juveniles sort of reaching maturity ‘“ this is difficult to determine in great horned owls because of their offbeat behavior ‘“ it was time for graduation day,’ said Hicks. ‘The release was in late afternoon so the graduates could be observed and rescued if necessary. All did very well.’

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