Smokey the Owl

January 2009 UPDATE
Smoky the owl has been released back into the wild.  
Read the full news story here:

Look Who’s Back

Updated 3:23 PM PST, Thu, Jan 15, 2009




“Smoky the Owl” moments before his release into the Santa Monica Mountains

Smoky the Owl was given a second lease on life Wednesday night when he was set free to roam the Santa Monica Mountains.

It was just two months ago when Smoky was rescued after suffering burns in the Sayre Fire in Sylmar.

After much loving and tender care given by volunteers at the Valley Wildlife the beast was released back into the wild Wednesday night along Kanan Dume Road in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Valley Wildlife volunteer Brenda Varvarigos said people in the neighborhood were happy to add “Smoky” to their community since they have been suffering through a ground squirrel overpopulation.

Valley Wildlife, a non profit all volunteer based organization that relies on donations in order to operate, responded to questions about the owl. Visit the organization’s Web site for information or send an e-mail

Why was Smoky not released back to Sylmar?

Smoky’s old territory was carefully evaluated by us and his territory was completely burnt leaving the prey base at none. If Smoky were taken back there he would likely starve or be forced to hunt closer inland where he might get shot or poisoned.

Where was Smoky released?

Smoky was released on a private 10 mile ranch near Kanan Dume. The ranch is free from rat poisons and pesticides and the prey is plentiful.

What if there are already great horned owl’s in his new territory?

Due to the abundant prey base, Smoky will not be pushed out by local owl’s. The area is large enough to accommodate 5 breeding pairs.

Why was Smoky released at night?

Owl’s are nocturnal and are completely in-active during the day.

What will Smoky eat?

Great horned owl’s have a large variety of prey in their natural diets. They eat skunks, squirrels, rabbits, rats, water fowl, and other small mammals.  The ranch has a ground squirrel overload so smoky will serve as natural rodent control.

How long will Smoky live?

Great horned owl’s can live 50 years. Sadly, most don’t make it to their 5th Birthday due to rodenticides. When people poison the rats, they also poison the predators.  The predator that eats the poisoned rat suffers the same fate as the rat. NO poisons are safe, regardless of what the pest control “experts” tell you.

Watch video of Smoky’s release!

Brenda Varvarigos releases Smoky the great-horned owl

Most recently, we have recieved wildlife victims of the wildfires blazing through southern California.  This great horned owl is currently recovering in an oxygen tank.

watch the latest news here:


Injured owl
An injured owl is rescued from SoCal wildfires in November 2008.


Firefighter Rescues Great Horned Owl

Animal rescue workers have already begun their work.  ( 

Brenda Varvarigos, director of the nonprofit Valley Wildlife Care (yes, they need your donations) sent a photo of this injured owl around the Internet, with this note:

“Not only do people loose their homes during the fires, so do thousands of wild animals.  Due to the fact that I am the only bird rehabilitator that will intake emergency wildlife 24 hrs a day, I have not had much sleep. The patients coming in are very sad cases, many of them not salvageable.

“This male Great Horned Owl flew right thru an open flame in Sylmar last night. A firefighter spotted him coming thru the heavy black cloud when he noticed that he looked like he could barely fly and was very disoriented.  He thought quick to get his hose on him and down he came.  Thank god for this firefighter; the owl’s eye’s were completely singed and his eye lids almost burnt off. There was so much debris and ash ain his eyes, nose and throat, I am amazed he was still capable of flight.

“After lots of flushing, fluids, and care he has become alert to his surroundings and is now standing up.  He needs constant oxygen and cool rags on his eyes and face.  What we don’t know is if his vision will be affected. After he is stable, he will see a Veterinary opthimoligist to asses his eyes.

“I have 3 owls here from the fires. The other two have oxygen tubes down thier throats and they have virtually no feathers as they burnt completely off. They are in heated incubators trying to survive. So far, so good.”

In another correspondence, Brenda wrote:

“Here is Smoky Joe. After several eye treatments throughout the night, he was able to open his eyes.  I was pleased as his pupils showed stable light response and he appears to have no impaired vision.  His eye lids are raw and bleeding, but intact. Of course, once stable, he will still get checked by the eye doc. I flushed him with fluids and he coughed up about 1/4 cup of ash. His incubator smells like a chimney :(“

Copyright Associated Press / NBC Los Angeles

 Wing, Prayer and a Firefighter: Smokey the Owl Recovering From Burns


Smokey the owl

An owl that was rescued by a firefighter during a wildfire in Sylmar is recovering at an animal rescue facility.
The owl, named Smokey, was removed from an oxygen tank. Workers at Valley Wildlife Care monitored his breathing, and said all signs were normal.

The great horned owl was listed Friday in stable condition. He was given a 75-percent chance of survival.

The owl flew through a wall of flame during the Sayre Fire. A firefighter saw the bird and rescued him.

The nonprofit facility sent photos and a note.

“It has been 24 hrs and Smokey is no longer considered in critical status. He is stable. We now believe that unlike his original prognosis of 50-percent chance of recovery, we are giving him a 75-percent chance of recovery.

“We expect Smokey to be able to feed himself within the next couple of days.  We will continue to support him with fluids and force feeding and have him x-rayed daily to monitor any further lung swelling.

“His eyes are healing beautifully despite the burns on his eyelids. Our avian veterinarian believes he has no permanent vision impairment. We will have him examined by a veterinary opthomoligist prior to his release.  As you can see from the picture, the small feathers that surrounding his beak have been completely burned. These feathers are important as they serve as ‘sensors’ while the owl is eating in the dark.  These feather shafts will need time to heal and re-grow.”