Galileo – The Star Of The Show

I’m happy to report that Galileo is doing very well.

Yesterday morning I attended a function hosted by HawkWatch International here in Salt Lake City. The primary purpose of the gathering was to inform HW supporters of their field efforts and research designed to learn more about the population health of the Short-eared Owl. Conservation biologist Neil Paprocki presented a summary of their efforts and what they’ve learned so far about this nomadic and difficult to study bird.

But the real star of the show was our old friend Galileo, the Short-eared Owl that Mia and I found hung up on barbed wire on June 19, 2016. I had to cut the wire to get the bird off the fence and his left wing was so mangled that he spent many months in rehabilitation at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah (WRCNU) before eventually being released to HW as an education bird (it was determined that he was unlikely to survive if released back into the wild).


This is HW Education and Outreach Director Nikki Wayment with Galileo after yesterday’s function concluded. I’d only seen Galileo once since the incident with the wire and back then he was still struggling to learn his new role as an education ambassador and accept his now pampered lifestyle but I was incredibly impressed by how far he’s come since then. He handles wonderfully on the glove, is no longer nervous and high-strung with people in close proximity and he actually seems to enjoy all the attention. He nibbles Nikki’s finger affectionately when she places her hand in front of his face and there seems to be a real bond between the two of them.

Galileo lost all of his tail feathers during rehab and he struggled a little without them but I’m happy to report that he now has a new tail! All of his handlers simply adore him, including old friend and teaching colleague Tana Peery Hunter who is a dedicated volunteer at HW.



This is Galileo as Mia and I found him hung up on the wire back in June (apologies to regular blog followers who have seen this image before). Back then he was a recently fledged youngster just learning to fly and made the mistake of getting too close to the “devil wire”. One of his extremely concerned parents is perched on a bush just out of frame to the right. Back then I wouldn’t have given a plugged nickel for the chances he’d survive his injuries, much less live a contented life at HW or anywhere else.

I couldn’t be happier about this outcome (unless of course he’d been able to be released back into the wild). Kudos to WRCNU and HW for their heroic efforts!


PS – Readers will recall my concern about cutting that wire. Doing so is serious business in cattle country so I reported what I’d done to local ranchers, left them my contact info and offered to pay for the repair. One of the ranchers wasn’t happy about what I’d done (“You cut the wire for an owl? We hit them with our vehicles all the time.”)

I still haven’t heard back from them and the wire has still not been repaired (I checked on it two days ago). I’m not going to worry about it any more…




49 comments to Galileo – The Star Of The Show

  • Always so thorough… thank you for joining us at the breakfast event, Ron. More importantly, thank you for caring, being a good steward of our planet and all that it encompasses, and for helping us get our new education raptor ambassador!

  • Nicole

    Above and beyond, Ron… esp. offering to pay for the repair… one only hopes that the rancher will have someone care about something in HIS life that he loves, as much as you and Mia did, for Galileo…

  • Susan Stone

    So happy to see another picture of Galileo and know that he is doing well. After all the trauma he went through, he deserves to be loved and pampered.

  • Laura Culley

    Terrific news! I know for a fact that being an education bird is a truly pampered life–meals arrive on time, your chamber is protected from weather and you have multiple human slaves whose primary motivation is to make your life easy and comfy. Granted, it isn’t the best outcome, however, he should have a long and happy life!

  • Wonderful, wonderful news.
    I am so grateful to you, toe eagle-eyes Mia and to all the other people who worked so hard for such a wonderful result. Released into the wild is obviously the best option, but this is an excellent compromise.

  • Bill Lindner

    Thanks for update on Galileo, I was wondering how his recovery and placement were going. What a great story, especially with the insights you’ve added. Road kill happens, hopefully the vast majority of it is unintentional. Long, long time ago I was on a Freeway in New England when I thought I got hit with a rock on the passenger side of the car. Everything seemed normal so I continued to the airport and checked in the car. Looked at the right side and found feathers from a Red Tail Hawk (I think) and a dent in the center post. I still can’t figgure out how it hit so hard on the side about a foot below the roof and I was doing at least 70 at the time. Still feel bad when I think of the incident.glad you showed the “Before” pic; made the “After” so much enjoyable.

    Thanks for your efforts and Mia’s sharp eye.


    • Bill, I once had a similar experience when a large truck I was driving hit a male Ring-necked Pheasant. You’re right, “road kill happens”!

  • Robyn Kemp

    I understand that in our populous world, vehicles will inevitably, indeed unavoidably, collide with owls and other raptors, although it is always sad. But that anyone can’t see the difference between what is usually a quick, albeit violent, death versus the slow, torturous death by entrapment in that devil’s wire … grrrrrrr!

    I am delighted to see Galileo looking so hale, hearty, and handsome. You did good, Ron!

    • You make a good point, Robyn. I’ve seen the final results of critters trapped in barbed wire when they haven’t been rescued and it isn’t pretty, especially when you imagine what they went through until the end.

  • Chris Sanborn

    “Happy tears” indeed! I remember your original, heartbreaking report and am so very pleased that it has turned out so well for Galileo. If he could not return to the wild, it’s a relief that he is an ambassador owl, and a well-adjusted one at that! To see the picture again of his entrapment and to know he’s even got his tail feathers back is so gratifying. Now, if only the ranchers (and others) who are as uninformed and inhumane as the one who chooses to maim and kill for convenience (and “fun”) could experience a similar turnaround in their souls …. Many, many thanks to you & Mia for the time, effort and mileage you put in to get Galileo to rehab and for your compassion for all wildlife.

    • Chris, I don’t think the locals collide with the owls for “fun” – see my response to Marty K below. I should have made that more clear in my original text.

  • Susan aka blue

    Thank you Ron, and the good people who assisted with rescuing and healing one little creature…

    • Others are the real heroes, Susan, What I did only took a few hours. WRCNU and HW already have many thousands of hours invested in Galileo’s welfare…

  • Barby Anderson

    What a story…..sad and yet ended well. You are a very kind man Ron, so glad all is good for Galileo now.

  • Kris Eberhard

    Wouldn’t it be great if that hard-souled rancher were somehow to come into contact with Galileo and his new mission ? I’d like that rancher to be able to appreciate an owl instead of just regarding it
    as a nuisance to mess up his big ( and probably over-powered ) truck……..

  • Bob


    Another owl rescue.

  • Judy Gusick

    YES! Go glad Galileo is thriving. 🙂 Whoever’s fence it is, if they know, obviously isn’t overly concerned. Attitudes among farmers/ranchers are improving, BUT!

    • Judy, I’ve been watching that fence and pasture for almost a year now since I cut the wire and I’ve never seen cattle in that field since that day. I’ll bet it’ll be repaired before they put any livestock in there…

  • Charlotte Norton

    Great shots Ron! How great that he survived and will enjoy a pampered useful life. You are indeed a great avian steward.

  • Joanne OBrien

    This is inspiring and touching, Ron!! Thanks for re-sharing it with us newbie readers. “Happy” tears were shed while reading it because it’s so nice to have a positive outcome for a change, in a modern-day wildlife tale (and tail)!

  • Dick Harlow

    I agree with the fact that ranchers need to be educated. Their cavalier and selfish attitude toward wildlife, in this case owls, is unbecoming to present day human beings. To say it any stronger than that would not be helpful. Congratulations to you and all who have saved, rehabbed and put Galileo into a new and very beneficial role. May we all strive to reduce wildlife ignorance and produce an appreciation by others in the benefits of wildlife to our way of life.

  • Robert (RJ) Davis

    What a great story and recovery! Thanks to Ron, Mia and everyone, including Galileo involved in HW and their education and outreach efforts!

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the use of barbed-wire for any purpose was legislated out of existence! It was not actively used where we live, where historically agriculture was limited and ocean fishing was predominant. Today we are surrounded by a Nature Reserve, and we do sometimes come across an old strand of it left over from by-gone days, a rusted piece buried in the ground or attached to an abandoned fence post. These still present hazards to wildlife and we remove these menacing bits whenever we encounter them on public land. Perhaps every kit should include leather gloves, wire clippers and eye protection at the ready. Every bit helps.

    • Robert, I think every birder and bird photographer should always carry heavy duty wire cutters in their vehicle – something I feel strongly about. My first owl rescue off of barbed wire, a Barn Owl in Montana several years ago, I only had light duty wire cutters. I had to strain so hard to get the wire cut that I injured my arm and it took weeks to heal. After that I bought heavy duty cutters and I always carry them in my pickup. Thankfully I had them with me when I cut Galileo out of the wire.

  • Tana Hunter

    Those ranchers need educating! It was so good to see you, and I am glad you got to spend time with Galileo. We all enjoy him so much. Thank you again for rescuing him!

  • I’m glad you “went to the wire” for Galileo. May he have a long and happy life as an educator.

  • Zaphir Shamma

    Thank you for the update and good report. Bravo to you and Mia for the work you did to rescue this owl. The 2 photos you chose to include tell the dramatic before and after well.

    • Zaphir, in some ways I wish I’d taken more images at the scene (one including both Galileo and his very concerned parent on the bush for example). But to take the time to do that with Galileo in distress just didn’t seem right.

  • Undoubtedly a very satisfying feeling for your efforts in saving this young life. Kudos!

  • Elmer Deloso

    Thank you for another wonderful story! I would have cut & paid for the wire as well.

  • Sarah Hamilton

    Such good news and what a beautiful owl. Thank you for your rescue and for those who would harm owls or any critter they will get payback somehow.

  • Marty K

    Thank you for the update! Galileo has grown into such a handsome bird. After his rough start, he deserves all the pampering he gets!

    I still get this horrible sick feeling every time I see the devil wire image. I’m so glad you and Mia did what you did. You obviously didn’t affect the integrity of the fence, or the owner would have repaired it by now.

    As for the asshole who hits them with his vehicle, you can probably imagine what I’d like to hit HIM with!!!!! 🙁

    • Marty, I’m pretty sure the locals don’t TRY to collide with the owls but last year there were so many of them (both Short-eared and Burrowing) and many of the locals drive much, much too fast on that road. Dead owls are the inevitable result.

      • Marty K

        I totally understand an accident, but it sounded like that guy would AIM.

        So glad that you and Mia were able to save the little guy. <3

  • Cindy

    Ron, thanks for the great follow up on Galileo. I saw your very first post when you had found him. You obviously were in the right place at the right time and it was his destiny that you found him and rescued him. Think of all the wonderful years he will have educating us humans on proper wildlife care.