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Half-Dead-Fred …. a roadkill success story!

November 24, 2010

A not so lucky Spotted Eagle Owl - A roadkill statistic!


Half-Dead Fred – a roadkill success story

Half Dead Fred is a Giant Eagle Owl who was a potential victim of roadkill. Most of the roadkill stories one hears about deal with carcasses seen, but this story, for once has a happy outcome.

Based on the De Beers Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve in Northern Limpopo, Jamie Zylstra, the assistant reserve manager, was driving to Musina when he spotted a ‘dead’ Giant Eagle Owl on the road verge. He got out to look at the body, which was immaculate and hardly touched, to marvel at the size of this bird, when suddenly it moved. It wasn’t dead, but was clearly injured. The humane thing may have been to wring its neck as it had possibly sustained major internal injuries, but instead, instinct told Jamie to take it to a friend of his, Rox Brummer of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, who lived nearby.

Rox looked at the bird, and suspecting the worst, put him in one of her many dog kennels so that she could monitor him. Whilst the owl could move, it was clearly in some pain. Rox tried to feed him but he wasn’t interested, and was clearly ‘half dead’. She left him in the kennel overnight, and by the next morning he seemed a little better – in fact he was hungry. Rox caught some mice to feed ‘Half-dead Fred’ who was clearly now very hungry as he wolfed them down. As the day went on, he improved even more, so that what appeared as “half-dead”, with possible internal injuries, was actually concussion.

Over the next few days, Half-Dead Fred made huge improvements. He may have lost slight sight in one of his eyes, but he has now made the journey to Johannesburg where he will hopefully be rehabilitated.

Many birds of prey are hit on the roads, often as result of secondary roadkill whereby they are scavenging on rodents. Please watch your speed and watch out for owls at night – Half-Dead Fred was one of our successes but many are not so lucky!

Half-Dead-Fred …… ready to be rehabilitated!


6 Comments leave one →
  1. dangerousfrizbee permalink
    November 25, 2010 4:49 pm

    good news indeed, I hope “half-dead Fred” soon becomes “fully-alive Fred” and can be released back into the wild!

  2. Justene Tedder permalink
    November 26, 2010 2:42 am

    Great story! Lots of injured birds here in Canada too and not many of them also are as lucky as Half Dead Fred. Keep up the research!

  3. Joe Holmes permalink
    November 26, 2010 9:19 am

    I’m curious as to why Fred has been taken to Joburg for rehab; does this also imply he will be released there? With the volume of traffic in the greater gauteng area one would suppose that he would be better off left closer to where he was initially found, just maybe a bit further off the main road.
    Another comment regarding roadkills generally – I see many signs erected along certain roads warning motorists of owls. But that is all they say. Motorists tend to be dumb animals at best( see the annual roadkill stats for them), and the signs should also warn” dip mainbeams and hoot loudly for owls/other animals” This might just trigger some form of reactive response that could save the lives of potential roadkill victims

    • November 26, 2010 2:27 pm

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks so much for your comments. Yes, I agree, we certainly have a long way to go with regards road signage etc… but hopefully the outcome of this project will put us in a better position to make recommendations to the road agency about road design and improvement. We’re getting there…..

  4. CurlyKim permalink
    November 26, 2010 12:30 pm

    I sometimes come across birds scavenging in the road when I’m driving. It feels like they are never going to move away and then, just at the last minute, they fly off. Their timing is so last minute. Wonder if owls have slower reactions – poor Fred.

    • November 26, 2010 2:33 pm

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for the comment …. I don’t think owls necessarily have a slower reaction, I think it’s more to do with them being nocturnal and therefore getting caught in the headlight glare. I’ve been finding quite a number of birds of prey on the roads which suggest that they are victims of secondary roadkill, as they are scavenging on existing hits.

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