Owl rescued during Maria Fire released back into wild in Ventura County

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Firefighter Caleb Amico holds Ram, at left, just before his release back into Ventura County skies on Feb. 26, 2020, and at right, after finding the injured owl on Nov. 2, 2019. (Credit: KTLA / Ventura County Fire Department)

Firefighter Caleb Amico holds Ram, at left, just before his release back into Ventura County skies on Feb. 26, 2020, and at right, after finding the injured owl on Nov. 2, 2019. (Credit: KTLA / Ventura County Fire Department)

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Ram, a great horned owl found injured and wandering ashy terrain in last year’s Maria Fire, has recovered and flew back into the skies above Ventura County Wednesday.

Ventura County Firefighter Caleb Amico, who spotted Ram in distress on Nov. 2, was on hand for the owl’s release at the foot of South Mountain, a peak between Camarillo and Santa Paula atop which the massive blaze broke out Oct. 31.

Amico said his hand crew was cutting down hazardous trees when he spotted Ram looking disoriented and unable to fly, so he wrapped the docile bird up in his jacket.

The bird was taken to Camarillo Wildlife Rehabilitation, where an X-ray revealed he had a broken furcula — essentially the bone that connects the two wings, similar to a human collar bone. He was also found to be suffering from smoke inhalation, said Nicky Thole, the animal rescue’s director.

Thole said it’s unusual for any great horned owl to be on the ground, and his injuries suggest he crashed into something.

“That’s usually from some kind of impact,” she said. “He could have been caught up in the smoke in the fires, and then if visibility was poor he could have flown into something.”

Ram was held in confinement for six weeks while the bone healed, then moved to an aviary where he could practice flying and regain muscle tone.

Thole expects he’ll easily adapt to his old surroundings. And, because owls mate for life, it’s possible he’ll be reunited with his partner.

The Maria Fire burned for a week in the Santa Paula area, charring just below 10,000 acres and destroying at least two structures.

Ram may have survived the blaze, but he’ll still have to face other hazards like rodenticide poisoning, which Thole said is killing birds in the area. She asked residents not to leave rat poison out.

Firefighters gave Ram his name as a tribute to the Los Angeles football team, which issued a statement celebrating his release:

“We salute the Ventura County Fire Department for rescuing and rehabilitating Ram. We are grateful for the Department’s continued service to our community all year round. Safe flight, Ram! We will be cheering you on every step of the way.”

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