He's pugnacious and he doesn't back down – and that may be part of why a snowy owl found injured and emaciated nearly three months ago has made a great recovery.
"He's come a long way," said Marianne Hites, the wildlife rehabilitator with Messinger Woods Wildlife Care and Education Center who nursed him back to health at her house.
Hites expects to get the OK this week to release the bird, so he can return to the arctic tundra.
Snowy, as she calls him, had survived for more than a week with a broken wing before he was found on a rural road in Cattaraugus County. Emaciated and sick, he may not have lived much longer, had not a farmer flagged down two state Department of Conservation officers who happened to be driving through the Town of Napoli the week before Christmas.
The bird’s major and minor metacarpals – bones in the wing – were broken, and the bone had become infected. Blood tests revealed the owl was severely compromised, with severe dehydration and kidney failure, and he needed to be stabilized for several days before surgery to insert pins into his right wing.
But with extra fluids, antibiotics and many visits to Specialized Care for Avian & Exotic Pets in Clarence, he came through it. The open wound healed, and by eating five extra large mice a day, he gained about 1.5 pounds to bring him to a healthy 3.5 pounds.
"He's eating everything he's got," Hites said. "He's chewing the heck out of his perches."
And he's flying.
"He's doing his own physical therapy," Hites said.
While she's excited about his recovery, she doesn't turn her back on him.
"He's very confrontational," she said with a chuckle.
A handful of snowy owls do make an appearance in Western New York every winter, according to Chuck Rosenburg, an ecologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Snowy has another checkup with the veterinarian this week, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation will place a band on his leg so he can be tracked after he is released.