By Elyse Pitkin
Barry the Barred Owl came to the James H. Barrow Biological Field Station in May 2022, injured and only a few weeks old. Rebecca Moore, Curator of Animal Programs at the Field Station, had been informed by a Kirtland, OH resident that she had found Barry on her deck after falling from his nest, with a broken foot. After sitting on the deck for three days, Barry was dehydrated and had eye ulcerations in both eyes. Fortunately for Barry, Hiram’s Field Station has a private rehabilitation wing in which staff and student interns care for injured and orphaned birds, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. Hiram’s facility partners with the Medina Raptor Center, Akron Zoo, and the Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center at Penitentiary Glen Reservation.
“Barry was taken to a vet to assess the broken foot, and it was determined it had already healed and there was no way to fix it,” said Moore.
Because Barry’s foot now is angled sideways, he is unable to use the foot for hunting and as a raptor, he must be able to use both feet for hunting prey. As a result, it was decided that Barry would become an education animal ambassador, so a permanent habitat would need to be assembled. In order to receive the permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to keep Barry as a permanent resident, a veterinarian had to compile a letter stating that Barry was non-releasable along with an application stating the intent to keep Barry as an education ambassador. Once approved, the construction for his habitat, a raptor flight cage, began in November 2022.
Biology major, Jacob Fergis ’25 was one of the students that helped build the flight cage for Barry and has been working at the Field Station in animal care and land stewardship since his senior year of high school. “I’ve done some other minor construction projects at the station and was happy to help where I could. I think Barry’s cage turned out very nice, and he seems to enjoy it,” said Fergis.
Along with Fergis, Neil Robertson, a senior biology and political science double major and chair of the sustainability development committee, worked on the construction of the flight cage.
“I think the cage turned out great, and it was really rewarding to see the enclosure get constructed and know that you were a part of it. Every day it would look more and more like an owl cage,” said Robertson. “Jim Tolan was really helpful at guiding us through the process, and even people with no prior building experience can participate and learn the right building strategies and how to use the equipment.”
Robertson has been working at the Field Station for two years and was first interested in joining the community because of his love of plants. “It’s a fun little community at the Field Station and so everyone who wants to help gets the opportunity to participate!”
Moore serves as the Curator of Animal Programs at the Field Station and is in charge of twenty-five student workers who care for a collection of over thirty education/display animals and cares for injured and orphaned wildlife through the wildlife rehabilitation program. She also collaborates with the Field Station’s education and community outreach coordinator in implementing educational programs with the Field Station animal ambassadors. “My work is extremely fulfilling. I have the opportunity to mentor student workers on a daily basis, and witnessing their growth both personally and professionally over their college careers is both humbling and satisfying,” said Moore. “Working with and training some of our education animals is always fun and rewarding; learning to train Barry to sit on a glove and do educational programs has been very rewarding for me.”
As an education animal ambassador, Barry will travel to schools to do programs for children of all ages and teach them about owls/birds, their adaptations/characteristics, and the conservation of wildlife and their habitats. Barry will continue to do programs at the Field Station for schools, scout groups, and the general public. Animal care student workers will get to work with Barry and learn how to handle him on a falconer’s glove using current falconry practices. “Raptors can be difficult to care for. When a student’s face lights up at seeing a raptor up close or accomplishing a task that was very challenging for them, it is always wonderful to be a part of that process,” said Moore. To learn more about the Field Station and the various partnerships it has with the Akron Zoo, the Lake Metroparks Wildlife Center, and Medina Raptor Center, click here.