Josh Douglas is used to finding surprises when he works at the Kootenai County Solid Waste Transfer Station on Prairie Avenue.
He is used to seeing hawks hovering.
But a great horned owl sitting on the floor near the used oil, battery and housewares section? Right next to the authorized personnel sign on Christmas Eve?
Just sit there?
It’s something Douglas had never seen before or expected to see again.
And he knew the owl wasn’t right.
âIt looked like he was resting. If we walked close to him he sort of opened an eye. He wasn’t worried about us, âsaid Douglas. âHe was pretty devastated. “
Douglas and his colleagues gave the owl time and space to see if it would fly away. This is not the case.
âThe owl hasn’t moved all morning,â he said.
By noon, Douglas knew they had to act quickly in cold weather if they were to save the bird that was there when they came to work around 8 a.m.
After a series of phone calls, they reached Birds of Prey Northwest, who sent volunteer Drew Day to retrieve the owl.
Day, who earlier this year helped rescue an injured bald eagle and later released it, suspected the owl had been injured in a collision caused by high winds.
When he approached, he did not try to retreat. Day carefully picked it up.
“He didn’t put up much resistance in the condition he was in,” he said. “It was quite helpless.”
Great Horned Owls are relatively common in Idaho. They weigh around 4 pounds, are around 2 feet long, and have a wingspan of around 4 feet.
After treating the owl as best he could on the spot, he was taken to the Birds of Prey rehabilitation center in St. Maries, where he is given food and fluids.
Day and Douglas both have high hopes for his recovery. Day believes he suffered a head injury and his vision was affected.
“The swelling should go down,” he said.
Day said Douglas and others at the transfer station may have saved him. If they hadn’t acted, he probably wouldn’t have survived on his own.
âThey kept a watchful eye on it,â he said.
Douglas was happy to do what he could.
âIt was one of those things in a million,â he said. “I’m glad they came down and got it.”
What would be even better, he said, is when he learns the owl has been released – and has flown home.