THE GREAT HORNED OWL AT LOST CREEK COUNTRY CLUB
By R.J. Smiley
A Great Horned Owl made the superintendent at Lost Creek Country Club famous.
Golf courses provide the perfect environment and great homes for many of nature’s critters. But of all the creatures that live on and around a golf course, the Great Horned Owl might be the most mysterious. The Great Horned Owl is the most common owl in North America and can be found in almost any semi-open habitat between the Arctic and the tropics. It is equally at home in forests and wetlands, deserts or grasslands, or your backyard in the cities. These powerful predators with sinister yellow eyes might be found almost anywhere. Their long ear-like tufts of feathers and menacing deep hooting voice make the Great Horned Owl the villain in scary movies and during Halloween; or, the wise old owl in television commercials. This owl, that shares DNA with T-Rex, fights many battles in a weight class a size or two larger that its own weight. The Great Horned Owl can take down birds and mammals larger than itself, but it also dines on delicate fare such as insects and snakes. Mice, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits and frogs, found in abundance on golf courses, are the Great Horned Owl’s favorite meals.
Recently a Great Horned Owl was the costar in a You Tube video shot in a water hazard at Lost Creek Country Club just outside of Austin, Texas. Members first saw the subject owl perched on a stump that stuck out of the mucky water near the clubhouse. They saw that the owl had become wrapped-up in monofilament fishing line. After some discussion and deliberation Craig Loving, the golf course superintendent, volunteered to attempt a rescue.
Loving, dressed in his camo shirt, gloves and hip waders, armed himself and entered the water with a pair of needle nosed pliers and a wire cutter. He approached the owl from behind and cautiously moved toward the large bird ensnarled in the fishing line. The owl, did what owls do, turned his head 180° watching Craig’s every step. Feeling a little intimated, Loving told onlookers later that he started talking to the trapped owl in a low soft voice. Carefully and slowly Loving raised the wing of the owl and snipped away the fishing line.
The Great Horned Owl opened his beak several time during the rescue, but never really threatened or snapped at his rescuer. After several minutes Loving had the bird free from its shackles and he moved back to shore. The confused Great Horned Owl was now free but remained on its perch.
Craig Loving returned to the bank where a member, who was watching the entire process unfold, handed him a shovel. Again slowly moving to the bird with soft low voice Craig stuck the wooden handle of the shovel under the owl’s talons. It took a little time for the owl to get both feet securely onto the shovel handle. Once the big bird had settled onto the new perch, Loving moved slowly through the green slime and carefully slid his feet along the silt filled bottom to the shore. With a little effort the superintendent made his way up the bank with his rescued owl resting on the shovel handle.
They moved to an open area away for the trees and tangled limbs where the shovel was placed on the grass. In a few minutes the mighty owl stretched his wings once or twice, to assure himself that he was in fact free. Then the Great Horned Owl flew away, “free as a bird.”
The entire rescue was shot on video and then produced by Dawn Denny.