REGI hopes for a quick thaw this spring to protect local birds

Turkeys are unable to find natural food with the snow covering the ground
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 8:20 PM CDT
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ANTIGO, Wis. (WSAW) - Spring has officially arrived, but with still a good amount of snow and ice on the ground, wildlife is struggling and birds are suffering, especially owls and turkeys.

In Antigo, the Raptor Education Group Inc., or REGI, has received two new great horned owls for their rehabilitation center after they fell out of a tree in Marathon Park.

REGI Founder Marge Gibson said the owls will never return to the wild in Marathon Park because the snow is simply too deep and the trees are too tall for them. “There’s a lot of activity there. A lot of dogs, people walking their dogs and stuff, so it’s a really bad place for great horned owls to nest. Yet they do it every year and every year we end up raising some of their babies.”

Gibson also said great horned owls have been getting hit by vehicles at night due to them foraging at roughly the same height as most cars.

The owls aren’t the only bird that needs saving though, turkeys are also vulnerable. They may get a bad reputation for being annoying and stealing bird feed, but they weren’t always here in Wisconsin. They originally came from Missouri in 1976 after the DNR made a trade with them in exchange for ruffed grouse.

“Missouri is much different from Wisconsin and you know, it’s not quite ethical to bring something here and then expect it to survive against all odds and some do, but it’s usually because they are visiting feeders,” said Gibson. The first 29 turkeys were released in Vernon County.

When turkeys don’t eat for an extended period of time and if the snow is too deep, some turkeys tend to die during this time of the year.

“Now they really need support, you know from the public. To be able to get through the deep snow for instance they can’t get to the ground, so they can get the food that is natural to them,” said Gibson.

She encourages people to feed as many birds as possible and to watch out on the road for birds. If you come across an injured bird, Gibson said to simply bring it to REGI for them to take care of.