One particular Wareham owl must have a guardian angel in Gavin Bartlett.

Bartlett recently rescued the same great horned owl for the second time in about 16 months, saving him back on September 22 after he was sprayed by a skunk and suffered more injuries.

“When they released him back into the wild after he needed rescuing the first time, they gave him about a 50-50 chance of survival,” Bartlett said. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw him in the field (on Thursday). I never thought he’d make it.”

Wareham Owl's First Rescue

Bartlett works for A.D. Makepeace, and part of his job each day is to check the bogs on the 500 or so acres of which he is in charge. One morning back in May of 2021, he was doing his bog check when he saw an owl on the side of the reservoir.

“I got close to see if it was alright, and it kind of flew off and landed in the reservoir,” Bartlett said. “I thought, I guess I’m going to swim out and save an owl, but he was able to flop back to shore. He just sat there, and I saw he had a cloudy eye, and you could tell it was like an infection or something.”

A great horned owl was saved in Wareham, Massachusetts for the second time by the same man
Courtesy Gavin Bartlett

Bartlett called the Wareham Department of Natural Resources, and they were able to capture the owl with a net and take it to the Cape Wildlife Center for treatment. The owl’s eye infection was so bad that the eye had to be removed, but he eventually recovered and was ready to be released back into the wild.

“They reached out to me and asked if I wanted to release him, which I thought was awesome,” Bartlett said. “We brought him back, opened the box, and he flew back to where I found him, and then I never saw him again – until a few days ago.”

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Wareham Owl's Second Rescue

Bartlett was again checking the property last Wednesday when he saw the owl sitting on the ground.

“It was the same owl, because he was missing the eye,” Bartlett said. “I thought maybe he’d caught a mouse, so I left him alone.”

When he went back the next day, though, the owl was still on the ground in a different spot. That’s when he called the Wareham DNR to come rescue the owl again.

“Six or seven trucks came, and I thought, ‘Wow, this is a huge operation,’” Bartlett said.

Wareham DNR via Facebook
Wareham DNR via Facebook

The determination was that the owl was likely on the hunt and was sprayed by a skunk, and subsequently flew into a tree.

“(The owl) was checked for visible injuries by officers,” the Wareham DNR posted to Facebook. “In addition to not being able to fly again, we observed a leg injury and he was DEFINITELY sprayed by a skunk.”

Bartlett was just stunned to have encountered the same owl twice.

“I’ve never seen an owl in my life, let alone get that close to one,” Bartlett said, noting that he has had to rescue loons, geese and other animals in the past. “To save one and then have it come back home again, what are the odds?”

What's Next for the Wareham Owl?

Although the Wareham DNR stated the owl “hopefully makes another full recovery,” Bartlett said he doesn’t think it will be released back into the wild again, having already struggled to survive after its initial injury.

“I think it will probably end up in a zoo,” he said.

How about Bartlett taking the great horned owl home, to help make sure he doesn’t need to be rescued again?

“I would love to, but I don’t know what the protocol is,” he said.

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Massachusetts has such diverse wildlife, but also strict limitations on what you can bring home and cuddle. In fact, there are only certain reptiles and amphibians you can keep as pets (so no raccoons, squirrels, bunnies, etc.) and you are only allowed two of each. The state also says "you cannot sell, barter, or exchange them." Also, keep in mind, these are wildlife, so it's probably best to just leave them be and maybe visit a reptile shop instead to get your next pet.

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