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November 24, 2017

By Art Lander, Jr.

They are predators of the night.

Most active from twilight to dawn, they are able to locate prey in darkness because of their incredible sense of hearing and acute vision.

Owls have large, forward-facing eyes and a facial disk that acts as a parabolic reflector, enabling them to precisely locate sounds. Some species have asymmetrical ears that aid in homing in on these sounds.

Soft plumage makes them virtually silent in flight, as they dive from a perch and pin unsuspecting prey to the ground with sharp talons, usually swallowing mice, voles and other small mammals whole, later regurgitating the indigestible parts as pellets of fur and bone

But because of their nocturnal hunting habits and coloration, owls are seldom seen by even the most avid outdoor enthusiasts. Their brown, tan and black feathers create natural camouflage.

Continent wide there are 22 species of owls, according to Smithsonian’s Birds of North America.

In Kentucky, there are eight species of owls, including the Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl, Eastern Screech-Owl, Barn Owl, Short-Eared Owl, Northern Saw-Whet Owl, Snowy Owl and Long-Eared Owl, but not all nest here. Some are infrequent migrants, only seen rarely during the cold weather months.

Here are some details on the three most common owls that are year-round residents, found statewide in Kentucky:

The Barred Owl is often referred to as the “Hoot Owl” because of its distinctive drawn-out call which sounds like “Who cooks for you who cooks for youAwill.”The Barred Owl is often referred to as the “Hoot Owl” because of its distinctive drawn-out call which sounds like “Who cooks for you who cooks for youAwill.”* The Barred Owl (Strix varia), often referred to as the “Hoot Owl,” has a distinctive, drawn-out call which sounds like: “Who cooks for you, who cooks for youAwlll.”


The Barred Owl is often referred to as the “Hoot Owl” because of its distinctive drawn-out call which sounds like “Who cooks for you who cooks for youAwill.”
Mimicked by wild turkey hunters on an owl hooter during the spring season, this “locator” call is used at dawn to get a tom turkey to gobble on the roost, so that the hunter can pinpoint the turkey’s location.

Adult Barred Owls are 17 to 24 inches, with a 50 to 60-inch wingspan, and weigh about 1.4 pounds. They have a large, round head, long barred tail, and dark eyes, with plumage coloration of dark brown, white, and yellowish tan.

The preferred habitat is forested areas, especially bottomland hardwoods along rivers. They nest in hollow trees, but will also use nest boxes.

Incubation by the female is 28 to 33 days. Young stay in the nest for 42 days, and are fed by both parents.

“The Barred Owl is often active in daylight,” said Kate Slankard, raptor biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). “They may come out to hunt as early as an hour and a half before sunset.”

The Barred Owl especially likes to feed on aquatic animals associated with wetlands — crayfish, small fish, frogs, snakes and salamanders. “Sometimes during the day they can be found perched over a puddle (in the swamps),” said Slankard.

* The Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) is a strong, fierce owl that has an enormous geographic range that extends from Alaska to Mexico.

“Great Horned Owls are flexible in the kind of habitat they can live in,” Slankard. “(In Kentucky) they nest in old hawk nests in semi-open (farm) land, or hollow trees in forests.

The Great Horned Owl’s “tough buy” reputation is well deserved as they often attack, kill and eat animals much larger and heavierThe Great Horned Owl’s “tough buy” reputation is well deserved as they often attack, kill and eat animals much larger and heavierThe Great Horned Owl’s “tough buy” reputation is well deserved as they often attack, kill and eat animals much larger and heavier
Their “tough guy” reputation is well deserved as they often attack, kill and eat animals that are much larger and heavier.

“Great Horned Owls eat skunks,” said Slankard. “When we handle a bird caught in the wild it often smells like a skunk.”

Even the owl’s striking appearance is somewhat threatening — large, yellow eyes, a rusty-colored facial “mask,” and a tuft of feathers on its head that forms “horns.”

Adults may weigh up to three pounds, are up to 25 inches in length, with a 60-inch wingspan. Coloration is a mottled, grayish brown, with a white chin and throat.

They hunt primarily at night, feeding on mammals, but also eat birds and reptiles.

Early nesters, Great Horned Owls lay their eggs in winter, with incubation lasting 28 to 35 days. Young stay in the nest for up to 45 days and are fed my both parents.

* The Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio) is a diminutive owl that lives in a variety of habitats, both rural and suburban.

The Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio) is a diminutive owl that lives in a variety of habitats both rural and suburban. They nest in woodlots shrubby, early successional fields and semi-open farmland, and often take up residence in wood duck boxes.The Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio) is a diminutive owl that lives in a variety of habitats both rural and suburban. They nest in woodlots shrubby, early successional fields and semi-open farmland, and often take up residence in wood duck boxes.The Eastern Screech-Owl (Otus asio) is a diminutive owl that lives in a variety of habitats both rural and suburban. They nest in woodlots shrubby, early successional fields and semi-open farmland, and often take up residence in wood duck boxes.
They nest in woodlots, shrubby, early successional fields, and semi-open farmland, and often take up residence in wood duck boxes.

Two distinctive characteristics are their coloration and their song (call).

“Eastern Screech-Owls can be gray, red or brown,” said Slankard. “The brown morph (color phase) is more common farther south, especially in Florida.”

Their call, often confused with the Barn Owl, is a mournful, melodic, whinny.

Eastern Screech-Owls only weigh about 5.9 ounces, are eight to 10 inches in length, and have 18 to 24-inch wingspans.

They are most active at dusk and during the night, feeding on small prey — insects, arachnids, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish.

They often roost in a tree cavity during the day and like to sun themselves on cold winter days at the cavity entrance.

Two to eight small eggs are laid in the clutch. Incubation is 26 days, and young stay in the nest for about 28 days.

Their range includes the eastern U.S., and a few states west of the Mississippi River, from eastern Montana to Texas.

Owls, while seldom seen, are numerous in Kentucky, and a valuable resource since they prey heavily on rodents.

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Art Lander Jr. is outdoors editor for KyForward. He is a native Kentuckian, a graduate of Western Kentucky University and a life-long hunter, angler, gardener and nature enthusiast. He has worked as a newspaper columnist, magazine journalist and author and is a former staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine, editor of the annual Kentucky Hunting & Trapping Guide and Kentucky Spring Hunting Guide, and co-writer of the Kentucky Afield Outdoors newspaper column.

 

FRIDAY, JULY 28, 2017

Some states use goats to mow along highways, saving money and decreasing herbicide use...

Goats clear grass and weeds near Olympia area interchange. Photo: Washington State DOT Flickr PhotostreamGoats clear grass and weeds near Olympia area interchange. Photo: Washington State DOT Flickr Photostream

Goats can do more than provide milk and meat: their dedication to chomping grass and weeds, and their nimble feet, have earned them a spot cropping along road rights-of-way in at least seven states. It makes sense, Frederick Kunkle reports for The Washington Post.

"Goats take pleasure and sustenance from their work in ways that people don’t. Goats don’t talk back, they don’t demand 401(k)s or pensions, and even their lunch breaks are productive. (They do get health care of a sort, at least in Maryland.) Sure, robots might do the job someday, too — but would you eat their cheese?"

Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration, told Kunkle that goats are "one of the greatest unsung heroes on the American highway." States that use goats to maintain roadways include California, Hawaii, Idaho, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina and Washington. They say goats are cheap and better for the environment than herbicides.

Maryland began using them in 2009 when endangered turtles were discovered living near a highway under construction. Pesticides couldn't be used on that stretch, so the state brought in goats. They cost the state $6,300 per year, including vet bills, and the state is considering expanding the program.

Written by Heather Chapman

Posted at 7/28/2017 12:01:00 PM

Pit bull attacks 2-year-old ...Dog Days 2017?

Anderson County EMS workers load a 2-year-old child into a waiting ambulance this morning after being bitten in the face by the family's pit bull.Anderson County EMS workers load a 2-year-old child into a waiting ambulance this morning after being bitten in the face by the family's pit bull.Date: 07-19-2017

A 2-year-old child suffered severe lacerations to the face this morning during an attack by a pit bull.

The incident occurred around 9:15 a.m. at 400 North Main St. in Lawrenceburg.

The child was transported by Anderson County EMS to the University of Kentucky Medical Center with what first responders said were non-life threatening injuries.

The dog was a family pet that had never bitten anyone, according to Shane Bast, director of the county’s animal control unit who is investigating the incident.

He said the dog has been secured and that the child’s mother told him she wanted the dog put down today.

Bast said that can’t happen because he’s required by law to quarantine the dog for 10 days.

“I’m going to watch it for 10 days,” Bast said, adding that the mother told him the dog had been vaccinated for rabies.

“After that, if she wants to euthanize the dog, and I think she will, she can.”

Bast said if the mother changes her mind, he would take the matter to court to have the dog declared vicious.

“Based on what I saw, that wouldn’t take much,” he said.

Bast said he dealt with dogs near that home the night before when he had to take custody of three pit bulls at the corner of Ballard Street and North Main. He said those dogs were friendly, but had to be taken in because they were running loose.

By Ben Carlson
The Anderson News