by Joyce and Mike Conner
In the afternoon of June 2, 2020, three young Great Horned Owls were gathered and placed in a large dog carrier.
Their destination was Cedar Hill Ranch, Gause, Texas, for release into the wild after being saved and rehabilitated by All Things Wild Rehabilitation.
Later that evening they and their human volunteers arrived at Cedar Hill Ranch.
After a short drive to a meadow with ponds surrounded by mixed forest, the birds were released one by one. Conner grandchildren were visiting the ranch that day and were able to participate in the release.
One owl posed for photos high up in a nearby tree before heading farther out into his new home environment.
Another owl, four weeks younger than the other two, stopped in a nearby cedar tree, and posed for a long time. We later learned that his human caretaker had named him “Little Foot”.
After about an hour, the humans returned to the ranch house and left the owls to live out their days wild in the area.
Six days later Little Foot appeared at the Cedar Hill ranch house begging for food by clicking his beak and screeching.
We were advised by the All Things Wild staff to make noise with pots and pans so that he would not be comfortable near the house and would return to the woods. Although he flew away that evening, he reappeared the next morning. This time he flew directly up to us and pecked at our legs. This behavior indicated to everyone that he was not ready for release in the wild, as he was still relying on humans to provide food to him.
We were then told to lure Little Foot into an enclosure to hold him until Sara was able to get him that evening. Joyce tied a piece of raw chicken to a string and led him slowly several hundred feet into one of our chicken coop enclosures.
At one point Little Foot grabbed the chicken and tried to get it away from Joyce. Although hungry, he was surprisingly strong.
Sara and friends arrived that evening. They took Little Foot back to the All Things Wild Rehabilitation Center where he will live in their “flight” cage. They will feed him only live food for about a month to get him ready for a second release attempt.
Can You Help?
All Things Wild Rehabilitation (ATW) is looking for places to release animals to the wild. Usually, they like a site to have a source of water and for landowners to be willing to put out food for the young animals for about 2 weeks until the animals learn how to forage on their own. However, we have been a release site five times and have never been asked to put out food.
If you find a wild animal that you think needs help, visit the ATW website at and review “Found An Animal?” information. If after reviewing that information, you decide you need to contact the center about the animal, call 512-897-0806.
If you are interested in becoming a release site, the following information is from their website.
How to Become a Release Site
The goal of wildlife rehabilitation is to return the bird or the animal to the wild. We release the rehabilitated animals on private property with permission from the owner. All Things Wild is always looking for good release sites. Here are our dream criteria for releasing most small mammals and raptors:
- Acreage, preferably 10 acres or more, with woods,
- No high fences,
- Water year-round,
- Away from busy highways, communities, houses, and lots of people,
- Accessible by vehicle or hiking,
- Willingness to do a soft release* if necessary, and
- An appreciation of wild animals.
If you would like to offer your land as a release site for ATW, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.Thank you!
*A soft release is when food is left out for released animals until they become accustomed to foraging in the wild.
More about Great Horned Owls
If you’d like to learn more about these amazing birds, please download this PDF fact sheet that Joyce made to help educate her grandchildren, based on information she found on the web.