Last month, firefighters were fighting yet another forest fire in California. As they were building a control line in the Sierra National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service reports, the firefighters cut down a tree that happened to contain two young Western screech owls. One of the firefighters, Nick Gauthier (he’s the one holding the owlets in the photo above) quickly scooped them up and kept them out of harm’s way. Anae Otto, the biologist for that region of the forest, was summoned. “My heart was racing when I received the report of owls on the ground,” Otto told the Forest Service. “I was relieved to find the owlets alive and in fair condition.”
Otto cared for the owls overnight, rehydrating them with a solution of sugar and salt, and eventually feeding them some worms. The next day, she handed the owls over to a wildlife rehabber, Terri Williams, who does volunteer work for the Fresno Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Service (FWRRS). (Back in 2004, Audubon wrote about the FWRRS and their work—you guessed it—rehabilitating owlets).
Western screech owls are common in the western U.S., with a call sometimes referred to as a “bouncing ball” for the way it starts off slow and accelerates, like a bouncing ball losing energy. These owlets, which Otto and Williams have christened “Puff” and “Fluff,” will remain at the rehabilitation center for a few weeks before being released back into the wild.