Cold Case

Photos by Northern Woodlands

Recently, we discovered this barred owl near the Northern Woodlands office – dead, frozen, and wedged in a tree cavity roughly four feet from the ground. The head was pulled back into its shoulders and the wings were splayed out as you see them here – almost as if the bird were making a desperate attempt to use the force of its wings to push itself out of the tree. The upper half of the body was fully intact, but the lower portion was missing, with leg bones roughly snapped and bone chips left in the feathers.

The site is right along a popular community trail, and close up against an area where kids have outdoor learning activities, so one explanation is that the owl died elsewhere, and a person stowed it there. Then again, this was a natural tree cavity (see photo) where the owl was tightly wedged at the top – so maybe some creature attacked it from below? Was it cached – and if so, who cached it?

There’s no doubt that late winter is rough on owls. It’s a lean hunting time, especially when ice or deep snow shield rodent passage ways. Which leads to another obvious guess as to the bird’s demise: that it starved, and some creature fed on the carcass.

If there are any owl forensics experts out there, we welcome your thoughts.

Update: owl mystery (partly) solved. It died elsewhere, and was stowed in the tree for outdoor educational use.

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  1. M Leybra
    Mar 01, 2019

    Many times there are calls for owls on the ground who can’t fly.  Reasons are varied, an injured wing from any number of reasons (incl. being shot w/ a pellet gun. which leaves them vulnerable to ground predators from whom he may have been trying to escape & attempting to wedge himself into the cavity only 4 ft. from the ground & it didn’t work).

  2. Donna Beaudin
    Mar 06, 2019

    Could it have been a pine martin, or weasel?

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