What a hoot at the library
By James Peacemaker, Jr. Managing Editor
Jul 25, 2014, 13:48
JAMES PEACEMAKER JR./HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Karen and Larry WhiteEagle-Fisher of Thunder Eagle Wildlife show off “Patch,” an eastern screech owl.
HOPEWELL — Did you know owls have three eyelids, have extra bones in their necks to turn their heads, and their wings’ shape make them nearly silent when flapping?
These were just a few of the fun facts shared by Karen and Larry WhiteEagle-Fisher of Thunder Eagle Wildlife in Dinwiddie as they showed off several owls at the Hopewell Library last week. More than two dozen kids exchanges curious sounds with the owls as the different species were brought out.
Thunder Eagle Wildlife is wildlife rehabilitation center on 65 acres in the far end of Dinwiddie that specializes in owls.
The couple have taken special classes and have licenses to keep the migratory birds and work to get them healthy enough to live on their own.
Karen and Larry try to keep the owls habitat as natural as possible to make it easier to get them back into the wild. When it rains, they don’t feed the owls because they wouldn’t be able to fly in the rain.
Each bird requires a state and federal license. Veterinarians often bring the birds to them after they are injured.
Many of the birds are struck by cars as development encroaches on their habitat. The owls are fond of going after mice, moles and voles in the median strips of divided roads.
Larry says they are only healthy enough to release when they can fly a good distance and they can hunt for food on their own.
The nocturnal birds are natural hunters, with huge eyes that don’t move in their sockets that help them see at night and special shaped wings that make them silent when flapping. Karen said this is why some people were scared of them.
“They can really sneak up on their prey,” Karen said.
They showed off several owls that are native to Virginia, including an eastern screech owl, a barred owl and a great horned owl.
Larry WhiteEagle-Fisher of Thunder Eagle Wildlife holds “Duke,” a great horned owl.
Karen said “Duke,” the great horned owl, can be very aggressive and will eat anything smaller than itself. That’s why they have the nickname “flying tiger.”
She said he eats about 8-10 large mice a day.
“These are not pets. They are wild,” she said.
But their sharp beak and talons are not their only defense.
When it gets distressed, “it puts out a smell just like a skunk,” Karen said.
Larry wears two pairs of thick gloves when handling Duke. The owl learned to pull up one pair of gloves to get under them to his skin.
Duke flapped his wings in an attempt to get away and bit Larry.
“I am Duke’s best friend and we go through this every day,” Larry said.
They try to pair owls up but Duke actually killed another male owl they tried to pair him up with. Duke was an adult owl when they found him so he is more difficult than if they had gotten him when he was a chick.
Larry pointed out the marks on his arms.
“See all these scars? That’s all from him,” he said.