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“Wild Hunter, Small Package” – Evansville Living Magazine

“Wild Hunter, Small Package” – Evansville Living Magazine

Photo by Adin Parks

Artemis’ story is similar to those of many of the other 23 animal ambassadors of the Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve.

The male Eastern Screech-Owl – originally from Indiana – escaped with a broken wing after being struck by a car in Phelps County, Missouri. Rehabilitation began on November 7, 2020 at the Raptor Rehabilitation Project at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbia, Missouri.

Photo by Adin Parks

Elaine Kung, Wesselman Woods’ wildlife curator and educator, says Artemis fared better than many of his peers. “So many of them go blind in at least one eye afterward,” she explains. “Their skulls are so thin and everything around them is so delicate.”

Although he retained his sight, rehab failed to repair the soft tissue in his right wing, leaving him unable to fly. The University of Michigan began looking for a permanent home after determining that Artemis could not live independently in the wild. Wesselman Woods expressed interest and became Evansville’s resident animal ambassador on December 16, 2021.

“We really want to have a good representation of our native animals here because there is so much more educational work that can be done in this area,” says Kung.

Today he lives with five other bird ambassadors at Wesselman Woods’ Nature Center. His exact age is unknown, but Kung estimates he could be between 4 and 15 years old. The life expectancy of Easter screech owls is typically 10 years, but in captivity they can live up to 20 years.

This little owl normally feeds on mice, and her cage is equipped with many strategically placed perches, branches, and ramps to help her get around. After her arrival, she had to learn to interact with people and get used to being in a crate. She was also trained to climb onto the leather gloves worn by the zookeepers.

“When we got him, he was still trying to understand his new physical limitations. It was sad to watch him because… flying is a love affair for him,” says Kung.

He has settled into his role well, appearing frequently in elementary school classes, summer camps and on Wesselman Woods’ social media. Kung describes Artemis as an introvert, adding that as cute and small as he is – he only weighs about 5-6 ounces – his species is not a fan of cuddles or pets.

Compared to his feathered ambassador colleagues, “he’s probably the easiest to handle,” says Kung, attributing this to the nature of eastern screech owls. “They’re not particularly shy, skittish or curious. They specialize in stealth and camouflage, so he sits comfortably in one place.”

Despite his small and quiet nature, Artemis should not be underestimated.

“For their size, Eastern Screech Owls have pretty powerful feet,” Kung adds. “Fierce hunters, small package.”