Two rehabilitated snowy owls released into the wild

Posted: Monday, June 18, 2001

BARROW (AP) -- Two snowy owls were returned to the wild after being nursed back to health at the Raptor Rehabilitation Center in Sitka.

The birds, a young male and female, were found injured or starving over the winter. They were brought to the center and rehabilitated but kept in their wild state so they could be returned to Barrow.

''Hopefully they'll be all right,'' snowy owl expert Denver Holt said. ''If they have enough lemmings and know how to hunt, they'll have a good chance.''

Cyd Hanns of the North Slope Borough Veterinary Clinic cared for the owls for a couple of days before their release to give them a chance to recover from their plane trip from Sitka.

''This is a traditional nesting area and where these birds should be this time of year. So they decided to release them here,'' Hanns said.

While many owls migrate, some stay in the Barrow area and winter over. Banded birds have been found as far away as Siberia, he said.

The main source of food for the owls is lemmings, but they also hunt ducks, shore birds and hare. They have a thick layer of down under their feathers that enables them to endure extreme cold.

The Boys and Girls Clubs helped in the release. The owls took quickly to the air and disappeared over the tundra.

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