‘Fierce Hunter, Small Package’

After a car crash, Artemis the owl finds a second life as an animal ambassador

Photo by Adin Parks

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

The male Eastern Screech Owl – native to Indiana – escaped with a broken wing after being hit by a car in Phelps County, Missouri. Rehab began at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine Raptor Rehabilitation Project in Columbia, Missouri, on Nov. 7, 2020.

Photo by Adin Parks

Elaine Kung, Wesselman Woods’ wildlife curator and educator, explains that Artemis has 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 there is just so delicate.”

Though he kept his sight, rehab could not repair the soft tissue in his right wing, leaving him flightless. UoM sought a permanent home after determining Artemis could not live in-dependently in the wild. Wesselman Woods expressed interest, and he be-came a resident animal ambassador in Evansville on Dec. 16, 2021.

“We really want a good representation of our native animals here because there is just so much more edu-cation that can be done on that front,” Kung says.

Today he lives at Wesselman Woods’ Nature Center with five fellow bird ambassadors. His exact age is unknown, but Kung estimates he could be as young as 4 or as old as 15. The life span for Easter Screech Owls typically is 10 years, but they can live up to 20 years in captivity.

This small owl eats a typical diet of mice, and his cage has a dense set-up of strategically placed perch-es, branches, and ramps to help him move around. Upon arrival, he had to learn how to interact with people and get used to a crate. He also was trained to step up onto the leather glove handlers wear.

“When we did first get him, he was still on a learning curve in trying to figure out what his new physical restrictions were. It was sad to watch him because … flying is falling for him,” Kung says.

He’s settled into his role nicely and often appears in elementary school classrooms, summer camps, and on Wesselman Woods’ social media. Kung describes Artemis as an introvert, add-ing that as cute and small as he is – only about 4.9-5.3 ounces – his species is not a fan of cuddles or pets.

Compared to his fellow avian ambassadors, “he’s probably the easiest one to handle,” Kung says, attributing that to Eastern Screech Owls’ nature. “They’re not super flighty, pokey, or inquisitive. Their go-to is stealth and camouflage, so he’s comfortable sitting in one spot.”

Despite his diminutive and calm nature, Artemis should not be underestimated.

“For their size, Eastern Screech Owls do have pretty strong feet,” Kung adds. “Fierce hunter, small package.”

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Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.