By Robert Noles
On the evening of Dec. 10, 2014, Tara Bonilla of East Alabama Medical Center ambulance service was transporting a person back to EAMC.
On Highway 169 near Goree’s Furniture something flew in front of the ambulance. Because Bonilla was transporting a patient, she could not swerve to miss the bird headed in the path of the ambulance. As she had her mind on her patient, she forgot about the bird.
After making a couple of runs during the next couple of hours, some Opelika EMTs pointed out the bird caught in the front grille of the ambulance. As they came around to view the bird, the barred owl turned and looked at them.
They carefully removed the owl from the grille and, within the hour, it was transported to the Auburn University Raptor Center for medical care.
The Southeastern Raptor Center is in Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Assistant Director Liz Crandall said when the barred owl was examined, examiners found the bird had head and eye trauma.Treatments to the eye, pain treatment, nourishment and about two weeks of rehab was all that was needed for the barred owl to be ready to return to the wild.
The owl had not been named by the staff at the Raptor Center but was know as case 14-301. Within the Ambulance Service it became known as the EAMC Owl. Laura Del Valle, of the Philippines, and a fouth year Auburn University veterinary student had the honor of releasing EAMC Barred Owl, 14-301, back into the wild.
When set free, the owl flew to the nearest tall pine tree and overlooked the crowd that had gathered to see its release.