by Zach Kline, VM2015
Last Saturday the Wildlife Medical Clinic held a ceremonial “release” for the ashes of the Resident birds who had passed away in recent years. I was upset when obligations regarding my clinical rotation prevented me from returning in time for the ceremony, so I wanted to make sure I paid my respects to one of those birds who made a big impact in my life while I was working for the WMC.
An incredible animal who was truly one in a million, Nokomis’s tame personality and inability to interact normally with other Great-Horned owls made him the perfect ambassador for his species and wild birds as a whole. Gentle, calm, and curious, Nokomis handily endured educational talks in front of large groups of people for almost thirteen years with the WMC. Over that time he (along with the other resident birds) touched the lives of thousands of adults and children in Central Illinois and was certainly considered the face of the Wildlife Medical Clinic.
I spent hundreds of hours working alone during late nights, holidays, breaks, and summers during my time as WMC manager. Occasionally those days could get rather lonely or frustrating, and Nokomis’s presence was always enough to cheer me up! As evidenced by the following photos, the two of us were bent on walking the path to stardom by means of various photo shoots, newscasts, and Public Relations talks. Though he was still a wild animal who was probably just tolerating my presence, every opportunity I got to have him on glove was beyond cool. I will certainly miss our time together.
During long days between patient treatments, I would have the “big boys” out to wander about the treatment room. Nokomis and Odin spent many collective hours exploring every nook and cranny the clinic had to offer.
Here, Nokomis is seen atop his very favorite perch.
I always likened Nokomis’s behavior to that of a very curious cat. Seen in front of him is a bin full of owl pellets that the clinic would sell to elementary schools. The tupperware on top was placed to dissuade that doofy owl from his habit of eating and/or knocking the pellets off of the refrigerator.
An intimidating visage, but a genuinely benign bird. Typically, Great-Horned Owl behavior is characterized by extreme threat displays and unbridled aggression. As a human, I feel fortunate that the only angry part of THIS owl is his face.
Photo shoot for the Veterinary Medicine Website. Nokomis spent 90% of this shoot being distracted by things going on behind him, so I’m surprised we got ANY of him facing the camera.
Nokomis was greatly admired by veterinary students throughout the school, as news of his passing clearly affected WMC members and non-members alike. While still upsetting to think about, I hope that these photos convey the respect I feel for this animal for all that his presence has done for the WMC and Wildlife Conservation in General.