View Full Version : Lense Transplant in Great Horned Owl

Friday 13th February 2004, 01:30
This report apparently originated from the Associated Press; I read it today on IN-BIRD and found it fascinating:

MADISON, Wis. - A great horned owl found starving in the wild because it had
gone blind could be released this spring after having new lenses implanted
in its eyes.

The owl, named Minerva by medical personnel, underwent two hours of eye
surgery Jan. 22, and Dr. Chris Murphy said she was in good condition during
a follow-up exam Wednesday.

"Perfect," said Murphy, a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. "Ounce
for ounce, this is considered one of the toughest birds on the face of the

Minerva was found in emaciated condition in early December, after someone
told wildlife rehabilitators Sue and Jerry Theys an owl had been sitting on
a fence for three days.

Sue Theys, who netted the owl, said she suspected the owl had cataracts.
After a local veterinarian confirmed the diagnosis, the couple brought the
owl to Murphy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary

Murphy had a pair of lenses on hand that had been custom-made six years ago
for another great horned owl that proved to be an unfit candidate for the
surgery. The lenses were designed by Murphy and Dr. Chuck Stuhr, and were
made for free by Storz Ophthalmics, a company that has been bought by Bausch
& Lomb.

With Murphy supervising, Dr. Renee Carter and fellow resident Katie Diehl
implanted the new lenses.

"To the best of my knowledge, this has not been done anywhere," Murphy said.

The Theyses, who operate Wildlife of Wisconsin wildlife rehabilitation, paid
for $300 of the $1,800 procedure, with the veterinary school donating the

During her recovery, the Theys have been giving Minerva antibiotic eye drops
three times daily and feeding her rats and an occasional rabbit.

In April, they will move the owl to a much larger flight cage and release
live rats into the straw-filled enclosure to see if she can successfully
hunt. If so, she'll be released back into the wild.

Great horned owls are the largest owls in North America, with females
obtaining a wingspan of five feet and weighing up to 5 1/2 pounds. They use
night vision and an acute sense of hearing to find prey in the dark.

"She's extremely feisty," Sue Theys said. "She can't understand why we're
messing with her. She can see and she wants to take off and fly."

On the Net:
UW veterinary school: http://www.vetmed.wisc.edu/home

Friday 13th February 2004, 17:43
Thats a nice story Beverley, hope it ends well.

Friday 13th February 2004, 17:52
That is heartwarming. Recently a Tawny Owl was helped back after being hit by a car. It was given a pin to weld it's leg back together and was realeased safely in Devon.

Friday 13th February 2004, 21:48
I've participated in a couple of releases (of Red-tailed Hawks), so I can say without reservation that releasing a bird back to the wild is one of the most thrilling and satisfying experiences a bird-lover (or anyone else, I would think!) can possibly have. My personal memories of releases are very precious to me.

And I can testify to the feistiness of GHOs -- we've had a few GHO patients at Soarin' Hawk this past season that have been some of the meanest and crankiest creatures you can imagine! But they are sooooo beautiful, you can (almost) fall in love with them anyway.

One female, who came in with a very badly damaged wing, was called Maddie -- 'cause she was obviously extremely p*ssed off by being captive, bad wing or no. There was a long summer of surgery, wound care and wing therapy (daily extensions and working of the wing by hand to prevent muscle atrophy), all done in heavy garments -- which still didn't completely prevent the occasional nip and bite from her doing some damage to her handlers. This was one big b*tch of a bird!

It was nip and tuck for a good while, then all of a sudden -- bingo! She recovered beautifully, and was released late this fall. And as you can imagine, she flew off, I'm told, without a backward glance!

If I should read anything more about Minerva, I'll be sure to post about it.