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You shouldn’t go into our freezer without explicit instructions as to which containers are safe to open and which are not. That’s because there are dead bodies in our freezer. Short dead bodies, only a few inches in length, with long tails. Mice bodies.

When frozen, the tails work well as a sort of ‘popsicle stick’, making for a rather gruesome popsicle. Now why would anyone want to keep frozen ‘mousicles’ in their freezer?

It all started a few months ago after I decided to take a course in wildlife rehabilitation. This was training to take care of sick and injured wildlife which need care for short periods of time until they are able to once again fend for themselves.

About three weeks ago, the Strathcona Raptor Shelter asked me to pick up a couple of Great Horned Owls that had been reported in bad condition. They were young birds and although they came from different locations, both were suffering from emaciation. For whatever reason, they were starving to death.

One bird was small, light in coloration and very quiet. He (we were assuming it was a male) had one small spriggit of feathers forming one ‘horn’ when there should have been two bushy horns on the bird. I called him Tuft. The other bird was a textbook owl; dark barring around the face and impressive features. Taking guff from no one, she (another assumption on our part) hunkered down and made herself as imposing as possible by fluffing her feathers and clacking her beak loudly. I called her Fluft.

Right from the beginning Tuft was in a poor way. His keel bone was as sharp as a razor, indicating that he had absolutely no meat on his bones. He was extremely light in body weight and you would have thought he would be hungry but he had no appetite. To feed him I had to pry his beak apart and force food to the back of his throat so that he had no choice but to swallow the food. To give him the calories he required meant feeding him four times each day. I’m not sure who was more stressed, him or I.

Finally there came the day where I dangled a dead mouse in front of him and although he took it, he would not swallow it. Well, the mouse just hung off of his beak until I got tired of waiting for him to eat it and tried to pull it away. When I did, he threw the mouse up and back and swallowed all of it except the tip of the tail.

Fluft was never any trouble to feed; she would always attack my glove as soon as I brought food to her. After a few bites at the glove, she would attack the food and swallow it with no problems. At the time I was feeding her a mixture of hamburger, dog food and vitamins, all of it held together with rabbit hair to mimic its normal food.

The good news is that, despite their very different personalities when they arrived at the shelter, they both recovered fully and are now roaming free somewhere in the wilds of Alberta.

Roy Fairweather, Tofield, Alberta, Canada

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