Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus)
Our Mascot of 20 years affectionally known as “Uncle Merlin” died Friday, August 15, 2003.
Merlin arrived in 1983 after his wing was amputated because it was severely damaged by beating it against the bars of the small cage that had been his home. Some well-meaning people rescued the owl when he was about 3 months old and kept him in that cage. They did not have the facility, nor the knowledge of raising and releasing a juvenile bird of prey. The veterinarian suggested that the owl be taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
After rehabilitation from the amputation, Merlin stayed at the Center and became a part of the education program. Nan Pipestem, for whom the Center is named, took Merlin to visit schools, so the children could get a close-up look to see how magnificent wildlife can be. The school children learned that wild animals are not pets. They learned how to respect wildlife and the importance of having a wild place, an environment, for wildlife to live.
Merlin also became the foster parent for numerous young Great Horned Owls. He relieved a lot of their stress of growing up in a large enclosure and they could learn some of his hunting and flying techniques.
When the Center moved to the current Panoche location 13 years ago, Merlin even found a “girl friend”. A female owl would visit each night, sit in the large pepper tree and sing her “whooo whooo whooo” songs to him for many years. You could tell it was a female owl, because she was larger than Merlin. She would also come to check on how he was doing as a foster parent. Merlin and the female would “whooo” while the youngsters tried to mimic with a soft whistling version.
Old age caused Merlin to lose the sight in one eye several years ago so he retired from education, but he still played the foster parent role.
In August of 2003 he permanently lost the sight in his other eye. Since he could no longer see, quality of life no longer existed. He was euthanized on August 15. He will be missed.
Great horned owls are highly adaptable owls that can live in deep forests as well as open country throughout North, Central and South America. Lets hope that these magnificent creatures always have a wild place in which to live.