A great horned owl injured a good Samaritan Tuesday at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland.
The unnamed woman rescued the bird near the intersection of routes 50 and 113 in Berlin after a suspected vehicle strike, then brought it to Assateague Island National Seashore, according to Liz Davis, chief of interpretation and education for the National Park Service at Assateague.
When the woman went to get the owl out of her vehicle, Davis said the bird’s talons latched on to her hand, then her forearm.
“It was really latched on,” said Davis.
Rangers from the National Park Service and Maryland Park Service responded – they were able to cover the owl’s head with a fabric bag which led to the bird lessening its grip.
According to Davis, the woman was treated on site and though paramedics responded, she elected not to go to the hospital.
“An apex predator of the sky, the Great Horned Owl is well-equipped with various hunting tools,” according to the Owl Research Institute. “Long, sharp talons and strong feet allow these owls to grip their prey with up to 28 pounds of force, enough to severely damage a human’s fingers.”
The owl was transported to Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, De. A message was left at Tri-State to find out the bird’s condition – thus far, there’s been no response.
Update (April 5, 2023 – via Lisa Smith, executive director of Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research –
“The owl was examined by our wildlife veterinarian and rehabilitation manager. It had an open fracture of the right humerus, significant internal bleeding (as evidenced by blood in both the feces and urates), and severe damage to the right eye. The bird had head trauma and fresh blood in its mouth and was in respiratory distress. Because of the severity of these multiple injuries, the bird was humanely euthanized. Vehicle collisions often cause catastrophic injury; in 2022, we received 56 owls that had been struck by vehicles. We were able to return 17 of them to the wild. The rest died or were euthanized due to the extent of their injuries.
This bird had a brood patch and likely had young. Great horned owls are early nesters, and it is probable that any young are already out of the nest and, we hope, can be cared for by the surviving parent.
We appreciate the efforts of the finder, the staff at Assateague State Park, and our dedicated transport volunteers to get this owl to us. While this bird’s injuries could not be treated, we were able to relieve it of its pain and suffering.”
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. She’s also a bird of prey rescuer.