|The Wet Mountain Valley|
I found the site, and there under a backhoe sat a great horned owl. It looked too alert to simply walk up and grab. The "toreador" technique of tossing a blanket over it might have worked, but the blanket might well have caught on the machine. So I took the big, soft net and ambled along, checking out the owl.
No slacker, the owl made a little hopping flight, landed — and then ran like a pheasant under a barbed-wire fence. #*@$%!
The woman who had called me asked if she and her twenty-something son, who were the only people working there, could help me. I said yes, I could use your help. She fetched him from where he was running a plate compactor on the other side of the site.
I arm-signaled: "The owl is there. Go around. Pincer movement."
We crossed the fence, made our pincer, and the owl, distracted, let me come close. When it tried to fly, I swiped with the net, not exactly catching it. But it dropped to the ground and assumed its defensive posture — on its back, talons up. An easy snatch, and it was time for a long drive to Pueblo and the raptor center.
I do not have the veterinary diagnosis, other than that the owl was probably "young of the year." That it could still fly a little makes me hope that it had only a soft-tissue injury, but I don't know.
Without the woman and her son, I would have been pursuing that owl solo across the landscape shown above, and would I have ever captured it, both of us tired and stressed?
Right now I am reading The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks by Susan Casey,* who used to be with Outside magazine. Describing her time with shark researchers on the Farallone Islands near San Francisco, it has lots on hunting behavior, of course.
When I met the son close-up, after the owl capture, we had a brief conversation, and I thought, "I never saw this guy before, but he immediately understood through nonverbal signals what was happening and what we needed to do. Truly, humans really are pack hunters."
* Her website shows the nature writer in a little black dress, a change from the usual boonie hat-and-boots image.