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Baby Horned Owl

Helping Injured Birds and Other Animals the Right Way – The Books of Jennifer Keats Curtis

[Guest Post by children’s book author Jennifer Keats Curtis]

Spring is here, which means baby animal season is about to be upon us. Spring is when many tiny wild creatures are born and hatched. Sometimes, those animal infants get into trouble, get lost, get injured. What should you do if you find a wild animal that you think needs help?

The answer is simple: Use the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) website to find the rehabilitator nearest you, http://www.nwrawildlife.org !

As a kid, I frequently found wild animals in need of help. Among others, I recall a baby bunny bitten by a cat, a box turtle who kept falling into a pond, and many baby birds, some of whom I realize now, probably didn’t need—or want—my help.

Kids love animals and naturally want to help them. As many of those kids grow up to become veterinarians, biologists, and scientists. I became a writer of books for children about wild animals and our encounters with them. I grew up believing that animals have emotions and feelings, probably not like ours, but that they are aware. Animals can be happy, content, jealous, or fearful, among other states. (Just ask anyone who has a dog; or, check out cognitive ethology, the relatively new scientific study of conscious and cognitive awareness and intention in animals.)

Unfortunately, things often happen to animals through no fault of their own. Animals are hit by cars. They are accidentally poisoned or swallow something they shouldn’t. Some are orphaned. They can become sick or hurt. I worry about these wild animals and, as a writer, I decided I could help by telling the stories of animal rescue programs and rehabilitation centers and sanctuaries.

For me, the beginning of these stories dates to a time, years ago, when I met master wildlife rehabilitator Kathy Woods, founder of the Phoenix Wildlife Center of Maryland, (https://www.phoenixwildlifecentermd.org/). She let me come into her clinic, and a whole new world opened for me. Here was a woman who knew just what to do to give hurt and sick native wild animals their best chances of surviving and returning to the wild where they belong.

I wished I’d had a Kathy when I was a child and I wanted children to know there are wildlife rehabilitators who can offer expert advice and assistance when they find a wild animal in need.

Baby Owl's Rescue, by Jennifer Keats Curtis

In 2006, Baby Owl’s Rescue was published by Arbordale Publishing. The book is about a brother and sister duo who find a great horned owlet on the ground, and get their mother, a rehabilitator, to help them rescue the baby in the right way. The mom in the story, of course, is Kathy; and, the book is based on a great horned owl that remains in her care to this day. Why? Because someone tried to make him a pet rather than return the bird to his nest.

The morale of the story is that the best place for wild birds is back in their nest with their parents caring for them. My hope is that young readers learn this valuable lesson in my “once upon a time” setting.

As a reviewer said: “There are many lessons in this book: do not disturb wildlife, call an adult for help before you touch wildlife, and teaching children (and adults) that there are wildlife rehabilitators who are professionals in reuniting baby birds with their parents.”
Chesupioc Newsletter, Audubon Society

That sums up my goals for this book precisely!

Since Baby Owl’s Rescue, I’ve continued working with wildlife rehabilitators, raptor experts, wildlife veterinarians, and biologists, to learn more and write more books about wildlife rehabilitation, emphasizing that there is a right way of helping animals. In books such as the Animal Helpers series, Saving Squeak: The Otter Tale, and Squirrel Rescue, I try to help young readers see what I have seen so that they know what to do should they find an animal in need.


The publisher of Baby Owl’s Rescue has a great 4-page guide about owls and dealing with birds that may be in need of assistance and an extensive online teaching guide for Baby Owl’s Rescue .

The featured image on this post uses an image from the National Wildlife Federation, which has a great post here with a video of some baby horned owls: http://blog.nwf.org/2012/04/a-rare-look-at-baby-great-horned-owls . Also, here is their page with more facts about horned owls.

This guest post is by children’s book author Jennifer Keats Curtis. Based on thorough research, she write books that teach young children about important ecological issues and what they can do to help. For more, visit her author website: Jennifer Keats Curtis .

Baby Owl’s Rescue is by Jennifer Keats Curtis, illus. by Laura Jacques.

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