From the winery that brought us hours of sheep grazing in vineyards comes a hoot of a mini-docuseries about the rescue of two baby great horned owls.
Napa’s Shafer Vineyards gave Wine Spectator a sneak peek at a series of short videos documenting the rehabilitation of two great horned owls, from helpless yet fierce-looking balls of fluff to mature, ready-for-the-wild owls. Shafer will be posting these clips on social media beginning Feb. 8, with the full, seven-minute video debuting Feb. 14 on Shafer’s YouTube channel. But we have the exclusive teaser.
“We see wildlife rescue and rehabilitation as a vital part of caring for our eco-system,” Shafer president Doug Shafer told Wine Spectator. “We love the work that Napa Wildlife Rescue is doing, and we’re proud to play a role in supporting it. We launched this video project with the hope that by taking people on the journey of this owl rescue, it will not only benefit Napa Wildlife Rescue but that viewers will be inspired to support their own local wildlife rescue programs.”
A little backstory: Shafer has had barn owl nesting boxes and hawk perches on their property since the 1980s. In 2016 they began a partnership with the Napa Wildlife Rescue (NWR) after donating a plot of land near the Napa River. That 4-acre property eventually became NWR’s rehabilitation facility. “We knew that the parcel would do NWR more good than it would ever do us,” said Shafer. “It was an easy decision to donate the land for that purpose.”
“The Shafer family was extraordinarily generous to give us the property we call the Shafer Sanctuary,” said NWR president Carol Poole. “It provides a place to condition wildlife prior to release and allows the animals to be away from people and recuperate in a low-stress environment.”
Volunteers and staff work daily with orphaned and wounded wildlife, restoring them to health and returning them to the wild. In 2021, they rehabbed 1,600 patients, ranging from owls and other birds to squirrels, raccoons, foxes and coyotes. “I was stunned to learn that there are no government-funded programs for caring for orphaned or injured wildlife,” said Poole, who has been a volunteer for 10 years following a career as a city planner. In California, most of this work is done by privately funded non-profits.
“We receive some assistance with rescues from our local animal control or [U.S.] Fish & Wildlife [Service] officers,” explained Poole. “Unlike domestic animals, which go to government-funded shelters and get veterinarian care, [Fish & Wildlife officers] bring the [wild] animals to us for medical care. That is why it is so crucial for people to support non-profits that do wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.”
According to Poole, the number of wild animals in the world is less than half what it was in 1970, a result of habitat loss, climate change and direct human conflict, i.e., traffic, rodenticides, hunting, etc. “Each animal that we can nurse back to health and release back into the wild represents the possibility of many forthcoming generations for that species,” said Poole. “A healthy planet includes wide biodiversity.”