Adorable owl injured on 101 Freeway recovers in time for mating season

California Highway Patrol Officer Sean Kelly stands behind an injured owl in the center divider of the 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara.
(California Highway Patrol Santa Barbara )

“Owl” it needed was some tender love and care.

An injured barn owl struck on the 101 Freeway in Santa Barbara last month has made a full recovery and will be released next week, animal rescuers say.

The California Highway Patrol received multiple calls from motorists in December about a “dazed” owl on the northbound 101 Highway at Milpas Street in Santa Barbara, the agency said on its Facebook page at the time. Two officers found the injured bird along the center divider of the freeway and guarded the animal until it could be captured and transported for treatment.

“We are so happy the owl made it safely off the freeway,” the CHP wrote.

X-rays showed the animal — dubbed the “101 bird” by the center — suffered serious injuries after a car struck it, leaving the owl with internal bleeding, trauma to her face, eye and nasal cavity, and a broken scapula.

“It wasn’t able to fly, so we knew something was wrong,” said Kim Stroud, executive director of the Ojai Raptor Center. “That’s when it showed the scapula broken and it needed to be wrapped.”

The scapula, located in the bird’s chest area, required a lengthy time to heal, according to the wildlife rescue center.


After 4 1/2 weeks resting in a body wrap, she was recently placed in a flight pen to help rebuild her wing’s muscles.

Now, the center is preparing to release the barn owl near where she was injured in hopes that she’ll find her partner in time for mating season.

With 25 years of catch-and-release experience, Stroud said it’s “still an amazing feeling to see a bird fly off.”