People who give a hoot wanted Owls: Downs Memorial Park's Adopt-An-Owl program needs volunteer feeders and funds to help injured birds of prey.

October 31, 1997|By Peg Adamarczyk | Peg Adamarczyk,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ranger Bill Offutt needs more volunteer feeders and more money for bird groceries in the second year of Downs Memorial Park's Adopt-An-Owl program.

A Friends of Downs Park volunteer group set up a fund a year ago to help feed injured birds of prey that live in the park's raptor cage and aviary.

More than $500 has been collected, but that is not much, considering the cost of feed and supplies.

According to Offutt, an owl consumes 12 to 18 rodents a day -- at an estimated cost of 45 cents a mouse. With four hungry predatory birds in permanent residence at the park, that translates into more than $150 a week. The park's goal is to shelter the birds in a natural habitat, but not turn them into pets, Offutt said.

"When people visit the park, we want them too see these birds for what they really are," he said. "They're not cute and cuddly creatures, but wild predatory animals with powerful legs, razor-sharp talons and beaks, that, unfortunately, cannot survive without our help."

In the spring, local Boy Scouts and other volunteers built a two-room 24-by-24-foot aviary to house two injured great horned owls given to the park by Gerda Deterer, founder of Wild Bird Rescue in Baltimore.

One of the owls, a small male, had lost his left eye and cannot fly because of a broken left wing. No one has determined the gender of the other owl, but it was taken from its nest by someone who wanted a pet. The result, Offutt said, is a bird that's imprinted with humans, instead of bird parents. It cannot hunt and depends on humans for food.

Two other unreleasable birds -- a turkey vulture and a red-tailed hawk -- live in the raptor cage.

In addition to those permanent residents, the park and Wild Bird Rescue have provided a temporary home and volunteer feeders to care for recuperating sick and injured predatory birds.

Screech owls, kestrels, barred owls and a red-tailed hawk have healed at the park and been released, Offutt said.

Pasadena resident Colleen Copley and her children, Lisa, 16, and Ben, 13, are members of the crew of volunteer keepers that feed, water and tend the birds.

"Not only have we learned more about caring for injured birds and other wildlife, we've met new friends who volunteer at the park," Copley said.

Offutt hopes more people will sign up to adopt an owl or perhaps become volunteer keepers.

"We need both to keep the program running," he said.

If you'd like to join the Adopt-An-Owl program, call Downs Park, ++ 410-222-6230.

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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