MEDFORD, ORE,--Dr. Cassandra Bliss of Bliss Animal Eye Care helped save the vision of a screech owl from Wildlife Images in Grants Pass.
Wildlife Images is a non-profit organization that focuses on rehabilitation, but when surgeries like these come up the cost is often overwhelming. Dr. Bliss has performed eye surgery on 6 different birds from organization and volunteers her services and expertise, but the actual costs of the surgery are all funded through donations from the community.
The organization recently took in two bird, a merlin and a screech owl that both had significant damage to their vision. For birds, both sight and hearing are important for hunting.
On the day of the surgery, Dr. Bliss examined both birds and found that the Merlin’s eye had started healing on its own, which meant it did not have to have surgery. However, the screech owl did not show signs of improvement. "We will remove the painful blind eye and then he will be able to be released as soon as he is live hunting," says Dr. Bliss.
Lauren Burke, an animal care specialist at Wildlife Images says that for screech owls losing one eye is not detrimental in their ability to hunt and live in the wild. Burke says, "Owls are a little unique in that they also rely heavily on sound and so being able to remove one of his eyes isn't a deal breaker for him, because he can use his sound."
While the surgery itself only took about 10 minutes to complete, the process of getting the operating room set up and the team prepped took about twice as long. During the surgery, Burke monitored the owl’s heartbeat through a headset, while Dr. Bliss used a microscope and small tools to extract the eye and stitch up the eyelid.
"After the surgery we are going to provide him with a safe and quiet place to recover, and then we are going to transition him back into an outdoor enclosure so he can get used to being outside," says Burke.
Wildlife Images focuses on rehabilitation of animals so that they can get back into the wild as safely and as quickly as possible.
Throughout the recovery process for the screech owl, caretakers will monitor his progress to make sure he is successful once he is released.
Dr. Bliss says that being able to help Wildlife Images and the animals they help is something she is very grateful to be a part of. "To watch an animal that comes in blind and unable to thrive in the wild, and with our expertise and the way things have progressed in medicine we are able to do minimal things and these birds then can fly. To go to a release and see an animal that was not going to thrive in the wild to seeing them take flight is nothing short of incredible."