WERC owl spent life nurturing, educating

Throughout his life, Oscar, left, served as a foster father to

On Easter Sunday, Oscar, the beloved western screech owl of the
Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center, passed away to the
great gopher field in the sky.
On Easter Sunday, Oscar, the beloved western screech owl of the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center, passed away to the great gopher field in the sky.

In 1996, Oscar was found alongside a Santa Clara County Park road, grievously injured and unable to fly. A park ranger rescued him and brought him to WERC, where he was immediately treated for his injuries. It’s believed that Oscar may have been hit by a vehicle and suffered multiple injuries but, fortunately, no broken bones. He was very young and believed to be out on what was possibly his first attempt at flying. After several months of WERC’s intensive TLC, Oscar’s injuries healed – except for the one that caused permanent blindness in his right eye, which remained completely black and was his most distinctive feature.

Because of his permanent disability, this little 8-inch long owl could never be released. But due to his otherwise good health, youthfulness and sweet disposition – and with permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Oscar was transferred to WERC’s educational animal ambassador program in December 1996.

For more than 14 years, Oscar helped educate and charm generations of children and adults, appearing at schools, libraries and public events to teach about our native wildlife’s natural history and behavior.

For almost every year of his life, another of Oscar’s demanding jobs was serving as a foster father to a multitude of feisty young screech owls, to help them avoid imprinting on the human caregivers who came to their enclosure every day to feed and clean them. All of Oscar’s owlets were successfully released back to their native habitats in our local woodlands, where they hunt on evening prowls for small rodents and large insects.

In the beginning of April, caretakers noted that Oscar was becoming lethargic and weak and that he wasn’t eating his daily mouse. He was brought to Dr. Suzanne Colbert, who examined him and took blood samples to determine the cause of Oscar’s malaise. She concluded that it was likely due to his advanced age, which was causing his organs to fail. In the wild, a screech owl’s lifespan is 13 years, so 15-year-old Oscar had already beaten the odds. Colbert prescribed medications and WERC volunteers diligently administered those, plus nutritional supplements, several times a day to help him gain weight. Oscar’s last days were spent in the familiar comfort of his large enclosure, where he was still able to fly around as he fancied.

Oscar was buried near his home by the woods and a small memorial was placed at the site. He will remain in the hearts of all who met him.

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