SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Three young great horned owls were released outside the Air Force Warfare Center at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, following five months of rehabilitation at the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center after falling from the roof of the EWC.
Steven Sanchez, Air Force Warfare Center building manager, found the baby owls in late April and immediately called the rehabilitation center to care for the babies.
"They fell out of their nest, which was on top of our two-story building," said Sanchez. "I didn't know what to do with the birds. I didn't want to leave them on their own, so I started inquiring and found out that Ellicott has an animal sanctuary."
According to their website, "Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center provides compassionate care to sick, injured and orphaned wild birds and mammals in Colorado for the purposes of release and education."
"The owls we retrieved from Schriever were what we call 'branchers,' which means they've outgrown the nest and bounce from place to place," said Donna Ralph, Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center executive director. "It's an accident - they were moving around, discovering their feet and they fell."
After the wildlife center retrieved the owls, an initial physical examination was completed. It was determined none of the owls were injured after falling from their nest, and they all could begin the rehabilitation process.
"Once we've ascertained that everything is in good physical working order, they go out with our foster owl, Hootie," said Ralph.
Hootie is a non-releasable great horned owl who has lived at the wildlife center for more than a decade and plays an important role in the rehabilitation process.
"Hootie raises the babies to be properly socialized to owls - essentially teaching them how to be owls and how to hunt," said Ralph. "I provide the food, but Hootie does everything else. She is incredible."
After months of rehab and an evaluation, it was determined the three owls retrieved from Schriever Air Force Base were ready to be released.
"That is the point of the program," said Ralph. "I will tell you, we worry about them. We always have and always will, but at the same time you realize, that's what these owls want -- they want to be free."
Sanchez, who initially found the owls and called for help was invited to help release the birds.
"I think it is great - I don't know how many owls this place can actually have because of the trees they would need, but it is nice to know they are finding places on Schriever to live," said Sanchez.
Air Force Warfare Center personnel came out to witness the release of the owls and many said they hope the owls stick around.
"If the two parent owls are comfortable and share their territory, they could stay around here for a while," said Ralph. "They could be chased out, but this time of year the owls are more likely to share their territory."
For more information on the Ellicott Wildlife Rehabilitation Center or if you know of an animal in need, visit www.ellicottwildlife.com