It was a frigid New England morning, the dull grey sky cast a soft light over the barren land. Our skis glided silently, floating over the fresh, dry snow. Suddenly, silent as air, a dark figure gracefully plunged from above. Facing away, it reversed its head, gazing its pensive yellow eye into ours, searching, analyzing, understanding. Then, without a sound, she was gone.
I returned later that day to find the great-horned owl still resting where I last saw her, in a shallow valley. Seeing an opportunity, I readied my camera, got into position and slowly approached. Drawing closer, it became clear that she was in trouble. The temperatures were dropping below zero within hours and the sun was already dipping below the horizon. After consulting two raptor specialists, @nspat1089 and I were instructed to rescue the owl and keep her safe and warm until they could arrive.
Using a towel, I wrapped the owl in my arms and placed her into a makeshift cage for transport. Slowly we made the cold journey out of the darkening woods and back to civilization. The specialist met us shortly after and took her for urgent care.
She has since been nursed back to health and is doing better. She was likely struck by a car, causing a minor fracture in her wing and likely permanent vision loss in one eye, leaving her unable to hunt and unable to feed herself. It is not uncommon for owls and other birds of prey to be hit by vehicles while searching for food. If an injured bird is found, contact your local raptor specialist immediately. In many cases, these birds can be rehabilitated and released back into their natural habitats. Though in this case it is unlikely she will be released back into the wild, she will hopefully find good home in raptor education.