Snowy owl found in Wilmington has died

By Andrea Chaffin

January 31, 2014

An injured female snowy owl discovered by a Wilmington farmer last week has died.

The bird was suffering from aspergillosis, a fungal infection, in its throat, said Bob Thobaben, a local naturalist who was caring for the animal. The owl died Sunday after its condition worsened over the weekend, he said.

As reported last week, a veterinarian evaluated the bird and found no broken bones, blood in the eyes or damaged wings; however, the bird was having great difficulty standing. Over the weekend, doctors realized the bird could not stand because it was suffering from the infection which had weakened its body.

“It stopped her from eating and swallowing,” Thobaben said. “We gave her pureed mouse, but her body couldn’t digest the food.”

Snowy owls are known to be susceptible to aspergillosis, according to wildlife experts.

John Murphy of Starbuck Road discovered the bird last Monday. The snowy owl is from the Arctic and traveled 2,000 to 2,500 miles to Clinton County. If there is a shortage of prey (lemmings), they will migrate south to forage for food, Thobaben said last week.

The owl’s body has been transferred to Herman Mays, the curator of zoology at Cincinnati Museum Center. Mays will be able to use the bird’s DNA to find out exactly from where it came.

“That’s the silver lining to this,” Thobaben said. “We’re going to find out more information about this and complete the circle. There’s more to this story than a dead bird.”

Another snowy owl was discovered in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Washington Court House last week. Visitors flocked to the area for several days until it was discovered the bird was succumbing to starvation, from which it also died.

“These are magnificent creatures,” Thobaben said. “They came such a great distance to die at our doorstep.”

Several of the snowy owls have been spotted in Madison County through the month of January.

Andrea Chaffin may be reached at (937) 382-2574 or via Twitter @andeewrites.