Each year Gold Country Wildlife Rescue (GCWR) rescues thousands of injured and orphaned animals. While each rescue is unique in some respects, typical in others, excitement is the norm. The story of Luna the Barn Owl, who in her short time as a GCWR Wildlife Ambassador touched the lives of many, is a perfect example.
Early one morning, Luna was found, stunned and unable to fly, at the treacherous interchange connecting Interstate 80 and Highway 65 in Placer Country, California. A Good Samaritan, seeing her plight, phoned for help; GCWR volunteer and raptor specialist, Dana, responded to the call on her way to work.
After parking on the shoulder of I-80, Dana located Luna who, when she saw Dana approaching on foot, started to move away – towards the traffic speeding by. Thinking quickly, as rescuers must, Dana decided to try to slowly approach Luna from within her vehicle, knowing that this would actually appear much less scary to a wild barn owl than a human afoot. Much to Dana’s surprise, Luna responded by running under her car! Backing up as slowly as possible, Dana maneuvered in reverse until she could just see Luna in front of her vehicle.
A driver for Sierra Hart Towing, seeing Dana’s car on the shoulder of the interstate and knowing full well the dangers posed by this accident-prone location, pulled up behind her and asked if she needed assistance. After hearing that the situation involved an injured barn owl, the tow truck driver offered to call Gold Country Wildlife Rescue. When he learned that Dana was from GCWR, this kind and concerned tow truck driver called in a second tow truck to assist. Dana requested just 30 seconds of slowed traffic, promising she could get the owl if she could have that brief window of safety. The second tow truck driver slowed down the commuter traffic just long enough for Dana to secure Luna with a sweatshirt, scoop her up, and swiftly place the owl in her vehicle.
Luna was raced to the vet where it was determined that she most likely had sustained a head injury, causing her to lose partial vision in both of her highly specialized eyes. This visual impairment rendered it impossible to release Luna back into the wild; to do so would have meant a slow death from starvation. And here, for the second time, GCWR came to Luna’s rescue. Thanks to our generous donors and volunteers, Luna was taken into our Wildlife Ambassador sanctuary program, where she would be given the best care and treatment possible for the entirety of her life.
Over her five years as a Wildlife Ambassador for Gold Country Wildlife Rescue, Luna visited schools, fundraisers, community events and even made T.V. appearances – allowing the general public to experience the excitement, passion, and enthusiasm inherent in rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured and orphaned wildlife. Luna touched the hearts of thousands of people, young and old, near and far – her story reaching around the world through social media. When Luna wasn’t busy doing outreach, education, and fundraising, she could be found at her favorite GCWR pastime: fostering and raising barn owlets – getting them ready for their second chance at life in the wild.
While her age at the time of her passing was unknown, the memories she has left behind in the minds and hearts of children and adults will live on for a lifetime. Luna is just one of the thousands of wild animals that GCWR has cared for thanks to generous contributions, and, especially, to the daily care provided by GCWR volunteer and Luna rescuer, Dana.
Photos by Don Metzner