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Owl returned to wild at Brunet State Park

Owl returned to wild at Brunet State Park Owl returned to wild at Brunet State Park
By Julia Wolf

Brunet Island State Park is home to a myriad of wildlife and a new animal joined the fray, Sept. 13, when a great horned owl was released back into the wild.

The owl was rehabilitated from little on, at Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release, Inc., in Colfax. “It’s just an awesome job,” said Patti Stangel, founder of Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release, Inc.

Steve Rogers, Cornell resident, released the owl on behalf of the rehabilitation center. Prior to the release, he read a release letter.

Before the release, we’ll say good luck, God bless and long life, read Rogers.

The owl’s release was done in honor of Larry Heagle and Kim Wilson, in thanks of their hard work and support for the project.

Heagle, a musician, organized music fundraisers twice a year for 10-11 years, to benefit the rehabilitation center. After one of the fundraisers, Heagle says he had a memorable drive home.

“When I came home, there were two eagles sitting on the tree,” said Heagle, adding that the sight felt like a message that he did good.

The 501(c)(3) non-profit also rehabilitates other kinds of orphaned and injured wildlife, including fox, bobcats, coyotes, squirrels and raccoons. The charity does not keep any of the animals, but Stangel says she makes sure the animals have time and know what they need to do before they are released.

The owl they recently released was about the size of its head, when she got it at the end of April. Stangel cares for young owls until they have their oil gland, which helps protect the birds from the elements.

Keeping up with the critters, sometimes for months at a time, is a labor of love.

“There’s quite a few of the critters that have to be fed through the night when they’re babies,” said Stangel.

Stangel says, in a way, the animals are her kids. They come and they love her.

“Before I release them, they hate my guts,” said Stangel. “And the more they hate me, the more I love them, because I know they’ve got a chance to survive and I’ve done my job.”

Stangel has rehabilitated animals for 23 years, after volunteering at White Pine Wildlife Rehab Center in the Fall Creek area. After that organization closed, she says she was about the only person with a license and began applying for the other permits a wildlife rehabilitation center needs.

She says she normally rehabilitates about 1,000 animals per year, from across 20 counties, but has had almost 1,000 already this year, with 50-60 calls a day.

“I never know what I’m going to get or how long I’m going to have it,” said Stangel.

It costs $2 per day, to rehabilitate owls and each species needs food specifically for them. Mice and rats are bought from a place in Indianapolis, Ind., which raises the rodents specifically for the purpose of feeding to other animals, so she knows the rodents do not have any poisons.

“People don’t realize the state government don’t help us,” said Stangel. “Everything is done by fundraising and donations.”

With the health emergency surrounding COVID-19, fundraisers have not been able to take place.

“We desperately need help,” said Stangel.

Those interested in making a tax-deductible donation, can send their gift to: Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release, Inc., E 9356 830th Ave., Colfax, WI 54730.

“I do it, because I love it,” said Stangel.

Cutline: Quiet celebration filled the air, as a great horned owl released at Brunet Island State Park, Sept. 13, took flight. The owl was raised from young on, at Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release, Inc., in Colfax. Photo by Julia Wolf