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An Owl Who Met a Skunk that Fought Back

June 10, 2024

On April 6th, a community member found and helped rescue patient #26130, a Great Horned Owl. All those involved in the transport that day immediately noted the potent skunk odor wafting from the owl! In addition to the smell, she also had a severely injured eye and small wounds covering her body. Based on this evidence, we suspect her dinner (a skunk) fought back. A skunked Great Horned Owl patient is far from unique as they are one of the few predators that prey on skunks; they don’t mind the odor since they have a poor sense of smell! However, a direct hit and injury from a skunk is less common.

We commonly see eye injuries in our hospital, but we rarely see an eye in this condition. She was diagnosed with a large, deep tear of the cornea (the outer surface of the eye). With such a deep laceration, we needed specialized help, so we reached out to our friends at Animal Eye Clinic. They generously offered to perform a surgical procedure on the eye. With specialized, delicate equipment and steady hands, we watched as they sutured the tear on the eye surface. She recovered well, but as in most medical cases, our patient did not heal the way we hoped. We opted to surgically remove the eye, which was a success!

To throw another wrench in her path to release, our patient injured her leg during her stay. To help the wound heal, our veterinarian recommended a wound product that has recently become available in veterinary medicine: fish skin graft! We placed the graft over the wound, and we are optimistic that she will make a full recovery for a second chance in the wild. 

Sunny Cooper, Hospital Manager, and Dr. Antonia Gardner, DVM, check on the fish skin graft.

The work we do in our hospital takes a village! A special thank you to everyone involved with this patient: The community members who found and helped rescue this patient, the Hospital Team at CRC, our CRC Rescue and Hospital Volunteers, CRC veterinarians Dr. Tracey Ritzman, DVM, Dipl. ABVP-Avian & Exotic Companion Mammals and Dr. Antonia Gardner, DVM, the veterinary ophthalmologists Dr. Gerding, DVM, Dipl. ACVO, Dr. Harrington, DVM, Dipl ACVO, and the team at Animal Eye Clinic.