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Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

Owl Release at Nature Camp

Wednesday, June 15 2016

students watching as a vet tech helps another student release an owl

Ian Kanda, RVT with OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital (left), and Shelby Fraser, camp counselor, prepare to release a great horned owl while Nature Camp attendees watch. 

Approximately 50 elementary students and a dozen Nature Camp counselors at Lake Park Sanborn north of Stillwater recently witnessed an owl release. Dr. Joao Brandao, assistant professor of Zoological Medicine, and Ian Kanda, registered veterinary technician working with Brandao at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, spoke to the group before releasing a rehabilitated great horned owl back into the wild.

“Nature Camp and Lake Sanborn were a perfect venue to release this owl,” stated Brandao. “The owl was brought to OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital by the Stillwater Animal Welfare Division after being found near a road. At time of arrival, the owl was quiet but alert and responsive. Although no fractures or obvious signs of swelling were detected, based on the blood work results, we suspect that the owl may have suffered some traumatic injury. There was also an old eye injury, which was most likely causing blindness in the right eye.”

Brandao and his team collaborated with the hospital’s ophthalmology service where the owl’s eyes were extensively assessed and the injuries to the right eye were determined to be old and healed.

“Because the opposite eye was normal and vision was present, we elected to assess the owl’s flight capability,” said Brandao. “During the next two to three weeks that it spent with us, flight was considered normal. Although owls have a great vision, they also rely heavily on their audition. In general, as long as one eye remains normal and has appropriate vision, unilateral blindness does not impair owls from being released. Once we were happy with her performance and her ability to fly, we brought it to Nature Camp to share the experience with the children.”

Nature Camp is a week-long camp that focuses on various aspects of nature and helps attendees develop a better appreciation for the environment including air quality, soil, insects and birds.  Sponsored by the Sierra Club, it has been providing environmental education through a hands on two week day camp for more than 15 years.

To support the wildlife fund at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences, please contact Jayme Ferrell at or 405-385-0729.