By Katherine Noll
August 09, 2012
On a nice day, you'll frequently spot people strolling around Northampton Community College's Main Campus, often walking dogs. When Stacey and Hayley Burke walked their dogs near the Community Garden on July 31, Moose and Rudy insisted on checking out the edge of the woods.
The dogs had nosed out a surprise. A nocturnal Great Horned Owl, clearly out of place in the bright sunlight, blinked up at the Burkes from the ground. It quickly tried to hide itself in the woods. Concerned about the owl, the women contacted NCC staff.
When the call came in to Jeff Mickey of Physical Plant, he knew exactly the person for the job. Electrician Joe Homay, who has worked at the college for 22 years, is not only known as an animal lover, but also as an animal rescuer. Back in 2009, he helped to get treatment for a sick hawk found on campus.
Homay went to investigate. "Sure enough, there was the owl," he said. "He ran away and hid inside a hole in some heavy brush in the forest. He was pretty big, about 18 inches long."
Don't try this at home! After putting on work gloves, Homay crawled into the brush after the bird. He reached in and managed to retrieve the owl, but not without receiving a few scratches on his upper arms from the bird's sharp talons.
This time, Homay knew right away who to call for help. He reached out to Barbara Miller of the Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center. Volunteers from the organization cured the hawk Homay had previously discovered. That bird was successfully released back into the wild.
"Barbara said to put it in a box and keep it calm in a cool, dark place until she could get here," Homay said.
Once Miller got the Great Horned Owl back to Pocono Wildlife, he was examined and found to be a young male, about 2-3 years old, suffering from dehydration after a head injury which probably affected his vision.
"They said he most likely flew down one night and hit his head on a tree or something," Homay explained.
Under the Center's care, he is doing well and eating. The workers there will now try to pinpoint the owl's age more exactly. If he is of breeding age, they will bring it back to NCC and release it, because it may have a mate. If he is younger, the owl will be released in the Poconos, where the habitat is more favorable for Great Horned Owls.
Both Homay and the Burkes made donations to the Pocono Wildlife Center, which is a non-profit, all-volunteer wildlife care facility.
Homay praised Miller and the other volunteers who work there. "They take very good care of the animals."
As for Homay, he'll always lend a helping hand to an animal in need. "If I can get close to it and capture it safely, I will do it and call Barbara."
Great Horned Owls are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
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