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Owl hit and caught in SUV survives

Salthaven West rescues snowy owl, hopes for a full recovery

Salthaven West rescues bird, which is recovering from wing and head injury

Megan Lawrence, director with wildlife rehabilitation centre Salthaven West, responded Thursday to the report of a snowy owl hit by a vehicle south of Regina. While at first things were looking touch-and-go for the bird dubbed Tahoe, his condition has since improved. (Submitted by Salthaven West )

Tahoe, the snowy owl, got his moniker with a bang, one so strong it caught him in the vehicle for which he's been dubbed.

Salthaven West, a Regina wildlife rehabilitation centre, often responds to reports of injured animals, but Thursday night's call was different from the norm, according to director Megan Lawrence.

"It's definitely common that owls and other wildlife get hit by vehicles, but this is the first time we've ever attended where one's still been stuck inside the vehicle after being hit," she said. 

A driver was travelling south of Regina along the highway when she saw the owl fly into her SUV, and assumed the worst for the bird. After driving a few minutes into the city, she stopped to see if there was damage to the truck.

What she discovered instead was the bright white plumage of a snowy owl, caught within the grille of her Tahoe. She immediately called for assistance, with a local conservation officer contacting Lawrence to respond.

Salthaven West shared pictures of the snowy owl that was caught in the grille of a Tahoe, with people sending wishes for his speedy recovery. (Salthaven West/Instagram)

"The faster we get an animal for treatment, the better chance it has for recovery," Lawrence said. "So I'm lucky I was just able to get over there right away and get him out."

Rescue mission

With Thursday's temperatures dipping to as low as –30 C, Lawrence staged a frigid, but fast-acting rescue. Owls can typically be quite aggressive, but with the owl putting up little fight, Lawrence could tell he was badly injured.

When we first got him, he spent a lot of time laying down and now he's standing up all the time, which is a great sign.- Megan Lawrence, Salthaven  West

She performed a brief triage before getting him to the Animal Clinic of Regina, where it was confirmed his wing was fractured. Of concern, however, was the severe head trauma he sustained, with a concussion making his recovery touch-and-go. Fortunately, things seem to be looking up.  

"Over the last 48 hours, he's made great improvements," Lawrence said. "When we first got him, he spent a lot of time laying down and now he's standing up all the time, which is a great sign."

Recovery journey begins

The young male, whom they've been calling Tahoe, is in for at least a six-week minimum recovery period while his bone heals and stabilizes. Before being released, he will be given test flights to ensure he is strong, healthy and not suffering permanent vision damage as a result of concussion.

But Lawrence says she's cautiously optimistic Tahoe will make a full recovery.

"I think everyone involved made a difference and will definitely contribute towards getting him healthy and back out to the wild."