An adult female owl was discovered by a concerned citizen June 20 on a residential driveway between Second and Fourth streets on Rosanna Street in central Gilroy, according WERC Executive Director Sue Howell.
An initial examination and X-ray indicated the bones and primary feathers below the wrist of the left wing were "most likely" intentionally removed, says Howell
The procedure is called "pinioning," she
said, and essentially handicaps the bird by rendering it incapable of flight.
has never seen pinioning of a barn owl, but she
believes the creature's wing was deliberately crippled.
"If it was left out in the wild, it would have died," she
According to Howell
, pinioning is often performed on waterfowl or poultry.
says it prevents birds from flying away.
During the procedure, "the bird is not anesthetized," says Howell
"They just cut if off."
says the rest of its body feathers were in very good shape when the owl was discovered, indicating the animal had been in captivity.
The lack of bleeding or infection around the wing area confirmed suspicions that mutilation was not caused by accident, she
"We have all these other barn owls getting ready for release," she
said Tuesday over the phone.
"And then you have this one that is beautiful, but has to remain in captivity for what somebody did just to have a pet ... it's such a hard case.
It's very emotional."
Whereas clipped feathers grow back, Howell points out pinioning is permanent and will "doom" birds of prey.
With the exception of zoos or rescue organizations who possess special permits, Howell
reminds the public that barn owls are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The legislation was passed in 1918 and prohibits ownership of certain species of migratory birds.
initially contacted all South County veterinarians in June to see if anyone had recently performed a "pinioning" procedure, or knew of anyone who had.
This yielded no information, she
also contacted the California Department of Fish & Wildlife
"They checked their records, and no permits have been issued at all to anybody in the area for a barn owl," she
Underscoring the Garlic Festival as "important to the community," Howell
did not want to "dampen" a happy time of the year for Gilroyans with sad news, which is why she
waited to file a report with the Gilroy Police Department
and notify the media.
is concerned whoever maimed the flightless owl is a repeat offender, capable of striking again.
"Say the owl escaped, they might go for another one," Howell
"Hopefully we can find out who did this."
The bird has not been named, and its age is unknown.
confirms the bird is in good health and will not be euthanized.