Earlier this summer (June ‘09) we received a rather unpleasant bird, a Great Horned Owl, who has dunked himself in the raw sewage tank at the Sinking Springs sewage treatment plant. The owl had reportedly flown into a worker at the plant, landing on his back, and then jumped into the tank of goo. Why an adult owl would make such a mistake was an immediate mystery, but its condition was hard to deny. He was officially dubbed “Foul Owl” and it was my job to clean him up.
The Owl was definitely not a happy camper. It appeared helpless and exhausted. The sludge was thick and beginning to harden. Cleaning him up was the first thing we needed to do before exploring any further problems.
He was submerged in bucket after bucket of warm water and Dawn dish soap until the water stopped becoming a muddy mess. The sludge had been transferred to the walls, drawers, floor and was covering my arms, shirt and pants.
Then it was off for a thorough rinse with lots of warm water. By this time this majestic bird had lost all of its fight and just collapsed into the tub. After a brief toweling, it was placed in a warm cage to dry and rest.
By the next day Foul Owl was clean and dry but had other issues.
He had a sheen to his eyes and appeared to have sight problems and occasional blindness. We treated his eyes with antibiotic drops to prevent infection and suspected burns to the eyes. Blindness would answer why the bird had originally flown into the worker but whatever caused it had to have happened before the owl’s eventful dunk in the sludge tank. A concussion from a previous accident may have caused such impairment. We held the owl for observation and he became quite a well known patient. He ended up staying with us for almost four months.
October 21st, the weather was right and Foul Owl was ready. Red Creek volunteer, Bonnie Bohnenblust, drove him to a park near the area Foul Owl was found. He was released at dusk. Hesitant at first to leave the carrier, Foul Owl finally returned to the sky. He flew strong across the soccer field and landed high in a tree.