Contributed by Randi Pearlman:
Bird Treatment & Learning Center, Anchorage and Alaska WildBird Rehab Center, Houston
After 15 years of educating and enchanting admirers all around the great State of Alaska, Artemis the Great Horned Owl, Goddess of the Hunt, succumbed to age-related issues and was humanely euthanized last week. Eighteen years ago, Artemis was left in a box outside of Fish & Game in Anchorage, fully grown and with a broken wing that had not healed properly. She was transferred to Anchorage-based Bird Treatment & Learning Center (BTLC), where she was nursed back to health and determined to be non-releasable due to her injury. Three years later she came to live with me, a BTLC volunteer, and so began 15 incredible years with a beautiful, mysterious and engaging wild creature who taught me more about life than any human being ever could have.
Artemis and I shared a strong bond of trust, and while it may not be accurate to label what she felt towards me as ‘love’, I definitely loved her, as did my husband, Steve. She was low-key and mellow for a Great Horned Owl, but never lost her wild instincts and could be feisty, vocal, and make very clear statements when she chose to. Sometimes, in the late fall or on cold winter nights, I would hear the hoot of a Great Horned Owl in the distance and hear her reply from her mew just outside the house, and wish that her wing had healed well enough for her to be released to join her wanna-be mate in the woods.
Many thousands of people of all ages got to meet Artemis over the years, at innumerable different venues and incredibly diverse locations. We visited just about every school in the Valley, and were often invited back year after year, and many other schools in Anchorage and beyond, as well as scout troops, civic groups, libraries, festivals, conventions, tour groups, retail businesses, nature centers, and more… Artemis graciously allowed me to accompany her to health fairs on the North Slope, to International Migratory Bird Day celebrations in Kodiak, to the Murie Science & Learning Center in Denali National Park, and to the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, among many other amazing journeys, both near and far. She gave children and adults alike an opportunity to view a magnificent wild bird of prey up close and personal; to learn about their history, their habitats, and their place amongst the wildlife of Alaska; helped teach the public to be respectful of that wildlife; won fans and admirers all around this great state; and became a highlight of their trip for many visitors from ‘outside’.
Thank you to everyone who loved, admired and learned from Artemis during her lifetime. Artemis was a unique bird, an extraordinary companion, my BFF (best feathered friend), and her passing leaves a gaping hole in my heart. She was never my pet, but it was a blessing and a privilege to be her caretaker for 15 years, and to have the chance to get to know and to live with her, an experience I will never forget or regret. Though she will be terribly missed, I am thankful that her spirit is finally free to feel the wind beneath her wings, and perhaps find that wanna-be mate, while leaving an incredible and indelible legacy for her species, Alaska, and the world.
Thank you, Artemis, ‘til we meet again – YOU truly were the wings beneath MY wind…