Two Faribault (MN) Men Help Establish A New Wildlife Record

If you were to perform a Google search to determine the longest recorded lifespan for a Barred Owl you’ll discover a plethora of sources all claiming 18 years, 3 months as the well established longevity record for this avian species (found in the wild).   That is until recently when two Faribault area men, acting independently, made an effort to set the new record straight.

This is a story about the beginning and the end for one of nature’s creatures.   Unfortunately, there isn’t much information about what this Barred Owl did during the course of its lifetime, but there’s plenty to prove this particular Barred Owl was no ordinary bird.


Field notes taken by Forest Strnad in 1986

It started back on May 24th, 1986, Forest Strnad and a friend visiting from England were hiking in an area now known as the River Bend Nature Center on the southeast side of Faribault, Minnesota.   As they were walking along, the two friends suddenly observed a Barred Owl quickly fly out of a tree cavity.   As a Federally Licensed Bird Bander, Strnad decided to climb up the tree where he eventually found three nestling Barred Owls.

One by one he removed the young birds and brought them to the ground where he banded and recorded his amazing discovery.   Once banded, they were carefully returned to the tree thinking it to be a long-shot they would hear about these birds ever again.

Such is the life of a bird bander.   You leave your mark on a bird with the hopes that someday an interesting story will develop.   In the case of a migratory bird perhaps it will fly thousands of miles away when it is next discovered.   In the case of a Barred Owl, movement is rather minimal over its lifetime so seeing a bird travel even 20 or 30 miles might be an extraordinary circumstance.


Close-up of bird band recovered by Rost.

Yet, in the case of Barred Owl carrying the band numbered 0667–95412, documented distance is not what made this bird’s discovery so unusual.   Instead, it was the Barred Owl’s age which shattered the previous longevity record by nearly six years.   In fact, a Barred Owl living for almost 24 years is unheard of even in captivity.

But this story doesn’t get written without another critical participant.   Faribault Fire Captain, Todd Rost, was working during June 2010 on a drowning recovery detail along the Cannon River when he witnessed a somewhat usual sight while kayaking.   There, floating in the water, was a tangled mess of feathers and monofilament line.


Barred Owl as it was found on the Cannon River near Faribault.

Rost contacted me about his discovery concerned about how wildlife can suffer when humans are careless about our trash.   Subsequent to that contact, I blogged about his discovery a year ago which can be read HERE.

Honestly, we thought the story would end there figuring Rost had discovered a banded bird that succumbed to an unfortunate fate due to discarded fishing line.   Yet, the story was far from over as Rost later learned when he reported on the bird’s band information.

Initially Rost reported the bird as likely a Red-Tailed Hawk because it was badly decayed and the feathers were quite faded and water-worn.   Soon thereafter, Rost received a query from the Bird Banding Laboratory verifying information mostly because “we found that age of the bird is unusual.”

Rost followed-up by providing pictures and other documentation to confirm that the bird found was indeed the same Barred Owl that Forest Strnad had banded 24 years earlier.

Today, when you look at the longevity records for owls you will see the new Barred Owl record contains an entry that makes this Faribault area bird somewhat special, at least to folks who find interest in these sort of facts.   It also underscores the importance of bird banding efforts and their subsequent retrieval and reporting.


Forest Strnad and Todd Rost hold the recovered band from Barred Owl numbered 0667-95412.

Indeed, it’s an unlikely set of circumstances that would bring two Faribault men together to help establish an important record for an owl that lived out its entire life in the wooded river valleys surrounding their town.   Yes, there’s a certain satisfaction for both Strnad and Rost in knowing they helped a local Barred Owl set a new lifespan record having documented 24 years of existence.


Certificate awarded to Todd Rost on his recovery.

As incredible as that fact remains, what may be even more impressive is the knowledge that records show only two owls (of any species) that has been documented to have lived longer than the Faribault area Barred Owl known only as #0667–95412.

As Todd Rost will surely attest, finding a bird of any kind dead and entangled in fishing line is not the desired way to view these majestic creatures.   On the other hand, had this particular Barred Owl died of some other natural cause it might never have been found and reported—and that, too, would have been a great tragedy as we now understand the important facts.

©2011 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Blogger’s Note:  If you find a bird of any kind that has been banded, please follow the reporting information on the band or contact the Bird Banding Laboratory for additional information.   The information you provide can be critical to those wildlife professionals who research such details.   Even if you have bands several years old, the information is never too late to report.

Minnesota DNR Final CWD Management Briefing (4/7/11)

The Minnesota DNR held a final teleconference today on their Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance efforts new Pine Island, Minnesota—the location where a single deer tested positive for the disease late last year.

I won’t cover most of the details that can be read in the press release found HERE, but what follows are some tidbits of information gleaned from the question/answer session of the teleconference:

  • The MN DNR was very pleased with the cooperation and assistance by the public on this matter.   In particular, they were impressed how well the private landowners and several conservation organizations worked together on this important effort.
  • The fact that no additional deer tested positive is seen as great news from the DNR that this situation was caught on the front-end so early.
  • This fall hunters can expect a CWD Zone declared in the hunting regulations.   It will likely be the same area that was used in this most recent surveillance effort.
  • This means there will be continued MANDATORY testing of all deer taken within this zone.   In fact, many people in the public have been requesting this mandatory testing continue.   There will be voluntary testing in many of the deer management zones surrounding the CWD zone, once this is established.
  • It also means this zone will likely see more liberalized season and bag limits.   This is mostly due to the fact the area tends to have a high wintering deer density which can add to the CWD problem.
  • It is highly likely the fall firearms season for the CWD zone will be lengthened with fewer restrictions.
  • At this point the DNR is not sure if this will be a short or long term management concern.   It will depend on what happens in the future in regards to testing results.
  • The DNR hopes to have the fall deer hunting plans (hunting regs) finalized within the next month or so.   This will give hunters in this area ample lead time so they can plan their fall hunting activities.
  • Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game coordinator, indicated that within this recent testing area on average there are 3.5 to 4.5 deer harvested per square mile (during a normal fall hunting season).   Because this area historically has such high deer densities, that is the reason why the DNR will likely want to increase those harvest numbers.
  • In fact, the DNR figures this fall they will likely get a surveillance size quite similar in scope to what was recently just accomplished.
  • The DNR will not be doing any additional population assessments until late fall/winter.   With the summer foliage and dispersion of the herd it is just too difficult to do with any effectiveness.
  • Expect the recreational feeding ban for deer to remain in effect for some time within this CWD area of concern.

– = End of update = –

©2011 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Minnesota DNR Weekly CWD Management Briefing (3/3/11)

A quick update as to where things currently stand with the Minnesota DNR’s Chronic Wasting Disease management efforts near Pine Island, Minnesota.   In a nutshell, efforts are progressing nicely as the DNR is pleased with the on-going testing efforts.

Here are some tidbits I gleaned from today’s teleconference:


  • The Minnesota DNR website has been updated including maps indicating where the samples have originated in the CWD surveillance area.
  • Landowner shooting permits ended as of February 28th.
  • In total, approximately 300 landowner shooting permits were distributed resulting in nearly 500 deer taken for sampling.
  • Dr. Lou Cornicelli, CWD Response Team incident commander, has high praise for the landowners in this area.   He states they did a fantastic job in helping with the testing effort.   He goes on to say they have been very supportive and overall been just tremendous people to work with during this phase of the response just ending.
  • Over the next two weekends the USDA sharpshooters will be working aggressively to complete the deer sampling effort.
  • So far the sharpshooters have accounted for about 100 deer.   They were trying to work properties adjacent to where landowner shooting was taking place, but the deer were too scattered to get desired results given their techniques.
  • As of now about 645 deer have been taken in the testing effort (this includes yearlings which are tested but not included in the study numbers).   Of that 645 deer, 427 deer fall within the surveillance group for the study (remember, 900 deer total are needed).   That being said, this CWD management effort is about 1/2 way there in terms of the sample numbers needed.
  • A total of 603 samples have been returned from the testing lab so far all showing negative (no disease present).   The DNR feels they are getting good distribution throughout the surveillance range for these samples.
  • The DNR also did an aerial survey on Monday and found the deer densities (distribution) are still where they expected them to be.
  • The aerial survey also showed 100% compliance with the recreational deer feeding ban so no enforcement activities have been necessary.
  • In terms of the available venison, so far the list has grown to over 300 people meaning nearly all of the harvested deer for sampling is eventually going into the food chain.

– = End of update = –

©2011 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.