The Pine Cone's third story of the week

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Laundry basket becomes owls' home sweet home

By KELLY NIX

Published: May 13, 2011

TWO BABY owls were homeless and nearly orphaned last week when tree trimmers accidentally lopped off part of a pine tree in Oak Hills where they were living. But they were rescued and reunited with their parents the same night, thanks to the craftiness of some SPCA workers.

On May 4, the SPCA Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center got a call from a homeowner who said workers accidentally cut down a nest inside a tree branch that contained two small great horned owls.

“They were nested in a cavity [of the branch] so they were very difficult to see,” said SPCA for Monterey County spokeswoman Beth Brookhouser.

The tree workers found the babies inside the pine tree branch after they had cut it down.

SPCA workers responded to the scene to find two healthy baby owls. Because the branch the baby owls called home had been cut, the SPCA decided to make a new home for the baby owls from a common household item.

A “makeshift nest was created by filling a green laundry basket with natural foliage,” Brookhouser explained. “We then secured the basket to a nearby tree.”

The new nest was a success, and later that night, the owls’ parents returned to their relocated babies, Brookhouser said. They might have even been happy about getting a reprieve from their demanding babies.

“It’s likely that the parents were out getting some much-needed rest,” Brookhouser said.

Every year, the SPCA gets baby squirrels and birds that have been injured or orphaned because of tree pruning.

Federal law requires that nests of threatened and migratory species — including great horned owls — not be disturbed until eggs hatch and the babies leave the nest. 

“In this case, since the babies were inside the tree, they were difficult if not impossible to spot,” Brookhouser said. “Because of issues like this, the SPCA recommends not pruning or cutting down trees during baby season.”