Injured owl takes flight again

Photo By Diane Drobka: A Great Horned Owl in need of assistance looks up at its rescuers.

Contributed Article

SAFFORD – Quick-thinking homeowners, dedicated volunteers, and veterinary professionals at Tucson Wildlife Center (TWC) recently teamed up to rescue an injured Great Horned Owl in Safford.

When her daughter Crystal found the owl on the ground in their backyard, Lou Amerson called a friend, Garth Gibbs, to inquire if he knew anyone in town who rescues injured wildlife. Gibbs put Amerson in touch with Diane Drobka, who volunteers for Tucson Wildlife Center, transporting animals from Graham, Greenlee, and Cochise counties to Tucson for treatment.

Photo By Diane Drobka: A Tucson Wildlife Center volunteer released the owl back in Safford.

Amerson called her on Jan. 10 to ask for help, saying that the owl was in her backyard and seemed unable to fly. Drobka captured the owl that morning, and then she and her husband drove the owl to the Tucson Wildlife Center. They have transported owls, hawks, and even a roadrunner to Tucson in the past. Most often, a bird has been hit by a car or fallen from a nest before it could fly; in one case, a hawk had been electrocuted by touching two power lines and could not be saved.

On Jan. 20, TWC called Drobka and Amerson with the good news that the owl, which was a female, had been rehabilitated and was ready for release. Two volunteers were en route to Safford to release the owl in the vicinity where it was found. Everyone met at the Amersons’ house, then drove to a nearby soccer field at the corner of 20th Street and 14th Avenue where the owl could be released and easily fly without obstacles.

Photo By Diane Drobka: The Great Horned Owl looks happy in a tree after rehab and release.

Kathy, one of the TWC volunteers, slowly opened the box to enable a close-up look at the beautiful owl, which the Amersons lovingly named Olivia. With the box fully opened, the owl readily took flight across the field, landing in a tall pine tree. Drobka drove past the tree on her way home and saw the owl perched and was able to snap a photo of her in the wild again.

“What a great ‘happy ending’ for this Great Horned Owl,” said Drobka, “Special thanks goes out to the Amersons for helping to save her.” Anyone who finds an injured wild animal can call the Tucson Wildlife Center’s 24/7 helpline at 520-290-9453 and they will coordinate with volunteers to bring the animal to Tucson. TWC also has a list of frequently asked questions on its website at