Increase in Owl Admissions
For Immediate Release
Sue Kirchoff, U of M College of Veterinary Medicine,
Raptor Center Seeing an
Unusually High Number of Injured Owls
Be Indication of 'Owl
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL (Dec. 15, 2004) - An unusually large
number of northern owls, particularly great grey owls, have been admitted to
The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota in recent weeks. Veterinarians
suspect that the unusual number of owl admissions indicates that an owl
"invasion" is underway.
invasions or irruptions occur during cyclic lows in the owls' prey populations
(voles, lemmings, and other small rodents) in the owls' normal winter habitat,
which includes much of Canada and northern Minnesota. During the prey
population's low points, which occur every 7 to 12 years, the owls are forced
south from their usual habitat in search of food.
"Although this southern movement is normal in years when
the owls' food sources are scarce up north, an invasion brings them in closer
contact with humans, often to the owls' disadvantage," said Julia Ponder,
D.V.M., a veterinarian at The Raptor Center. "Many of these birds are hit by
cars or suffer other traumatic injury."
Since Nov. 1, The Raptor Center has admitted 25 northern
owls - 23 great gray owls and 2 northern hawk owls. These owls have received
treatments ranging from supportive medical care to advanced orthopedic surgery.
Seven great gray owls and one northern hawk owl are currently hospitalized at
the center. In a typical year, the center sees only one or two of the elusive
This is not the first great gray owl invasion that The
Raptor Center has experienced. During the winter of 1995-1996, the center
admitted 15 great gray owls, most from the Twin Cities area.
The Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota
specializes in the medical care, rehabilitation, and conservation of eagles,
hawks, owls, and falcons. In addition to treating approximately 800 birds a
year, the program provides training in raptor medicine and surgery for
veterinarians from around the world, reaches more than 150,000 people each year
through public education programs and events, and identifies emerging issues
related to raptor health and populations. A program within the University of
Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, The Raptor Center is supported by