Great Horned Owl found stuck in truck grill : Rescuers free bird with few injuries

Raymond Notthoff, a 58-year-old truck driver from Rosemead, was in for a frightening, feathery surprise when a great horned owl managed to get stuck in the front grill of his truck as he drove southbound on State Route 135 near Los Alamos.
To the relief — and surprise — of those involved, the owl was hardly injured. As the bird flew directly toward his International semi truck around 11 p.m. on July 6, Mr. Notthoff hit his brakes.
But it was too late — the owl made contact with the truck. Mr.. Notthoff searched the area for the creature, but, not finding it, continued to drive.
It was only then that he noticed a pair of wings extending from the grill of his truck up over the hood, according to a news release from the Santa Maria office of the California Highway Patrol.
Cautiously, Mr. Notthoff drove until he found a Chevron station to examine the still-living creature and any damage to his truck. After Mr. Notthoff called the CHP for help, Officers Mike Gruver and Dave Medina came to the station and freed the owl.
The officers placed the bird in a box and covered it to pacify and protect it.
The great horned owl was placed in the care of Julia Di Sieno of the Solvang-based Animal Rescue Team. Ms. Di Sieno examined the bird and determined that, aside from minor bruises and soreness, it wasn’t injured, just startled.
Ms. Di Sieno, licensed and permitted by the California Department of Fish and Game, said the male great horned owl was soon able to fly perfectly fine on its own. After a few days of caring for the animal, she released it in a ranch not far from where it hit the truck.
The Animal Rescue Team tries to place animals within a three-mile radius of where they are first found, she said.
“He did exceptionally well when I let him go,” Ms. Di Sieno told the News-Press.
Great horned owls, with gray-and-brown heads, often have a pattern on their bodies resembling bark. There are five subspecies of the owl in the western states, all of which can apparently be found within California, according to the Field Guide to Owls of California and the West by Hans Peeters.
This type of owl, according to the guide, sometimes makes it all the way to Santa Barbara Island.
The Animal Rescue Team, begun just four years ago, sees quite a few owls hit by vehicles, Ms. Di Sieno said. But few are as fortunate as this owl was.
Owls often get a sort of tunnel vision hunting for prey at night, failing to see their dangerous surroundings. In this instance, the owl hit the truck at an angle, and the truck had already slowed.
If the truck and owl had to collide, there couldn’t have been a more “perfect landing,” Ms. Di Sieno said.
The Animal Rescue Team, which took in about 230 animals in 2010, has seen almost double that so far this year — mostly because it now has more resources to care for wounded animals.
“We’ve already hit the 400 mark,” Ms. Di Sieno said.
Mostly, the facility cares for large mammals, like bobcats and wolves. It is the only facility that accepts wolves and fawns for miles around. But all animals in need are welcome.
“We never refuse any animal here,” Ms. Di Sieno said.
Anyone who finds an injured animal is urged by the Animal Rescue Team to call their hotline at 896-1859. The team is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and responds to Santa Ynez, Buellton, Lompoc and Santa Maria.

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