Saturday, March 24, 2012

Owl Pellets and 2nd Chance for Wildlife

Friday our homeschoolers group had meet up where a couple of reps from Second Chance for Wildlife came to speak. They rescue various animals and rehabilitate them for release. While the kids found the discussion interesting, the main stars were the animals they brought. The first was a red-tailed hawk.

Next was a barn owl.

We learned about their diet, mating, habitat, how they feed their young etc. It was really interesting. Even the youngest of the homeschoolers paid rapt attention. And more impressively, Eion did too.

They they brought out this guy.

Hi! I'm a disgusting opossum!

And all my kids' hands shot up directly. I'm standing in the back thinking, "Holy shite. My kids are totally going to rat me out for capping one of those on the deck." [Allegedly.] Which, at the time, they thought was the most awesome thing ever as it played possum after [allegedly] taking one in the side. 

But my kids spared me and left my animals rights reputation without any further damage. They did decide it was the cutest thing ever (gross) and wanted to pet it (double gross.) I just wanted to know why anyone was in the business of saving rodent pests. Seeing as I had dodged a bullet there on the deck-gun-possum incident, decided not to ask.

Te girls had a half day so they were there too. After the animals show was done, we commenced to owl pellet dissection.

Now science was never my strongest suit so you'll have to excuse me for thinking that owl pellets were some kind of baby owls we were going to dissect, much like you do frogs at school. I soon found out, from my 10 year old no less, that these were indeed not actual owls but actual owl vomit. They apparently can't digest fur and bones so they collect the lunch leftovers in their craw and hurl them out. 

We were tasked with puling them apart and, based on bones, determining what lunch was. Morrigan was very, very careful, only touching the grey lump with her pick and tweezers. Maggie shared some of her meticulous tendencies but was willing to use her hands as well. Eion, he just used his hands and ripped it all apart in a matter of minutes, hitting pay dirt, a mouse skull.

And naturally, having finished first, he was then free to run around like a wild man as his sisters took their time. Overall rating, five stars - or maybe four if you take into consideration that I now own a mouse skull.

OK - just one more thing. We're going to file it under the massive government power grab of the day. [But I would like you all to note how I saved this to the end so if you're not in the mood for my political rants you can just check out!] In the course of the 2nd Chance for Wildlife discussion, the speaker told us how the possession of feathers, from any bird other than pigeons, and two others I can't remember, was illegal. One of the kids asked if you could keep one if you find it on the ground. 

The answer was no. The reason was even more irritating. You couldn't keep feathers of any kind because you had no way to prove you had not captured a bird or otherwise caused the bird harm in order to get it. 

Holy government over-reach.

Some EPA statute, no voting from our elected representatives necessary, strips you of your innocent-until-proven-guilty status and mandates that you can't posses a feather, even if you find it on your own property. If you are "caught," you are subject to, as the speaker described, "massive" fines. Don't get me wrong, I am not for the destruction of the hawk and owl communities, but this seems like overkill. It is one of those examples I think of whenever "they" say government can't cut costs. I am pretty sure we can get rid of the officers enforcing the "don't collect feathers" statute.

On the plus side, I used this as a perfect example of why we should return to the limited government envisioned by our Founding Fathers!


  1. Sounds like a great homeschooling activity! I can imagine how fun it would be for a kid to examine owl pellets. I'll be sure not to pick up any feathers when there are cops around.

  2. What if I can prove that I shot it and had it stuffed at the local taxidermy place?