Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center’s newest education raptor is no longer simply known as a handsome red phase eastern screech owl.
From this day forward, his name is Jasper.
In April, the adult male bird, just 7 inches tall, was found along a road in Albion and brought to Tamarack for treatment. In the end, one eye was so damaged that it had to be surgically removed and he had suffered serious hearing loss on the same side of his head.
His health now restored but unable to be released because of the hearing and vision loss, Jasper has obtained all the permits necessary to become an education ambassador. His successful completion of the transition from patient to professional increases to eight the center’s complement of educational birds of prey, which includes hawks, owls and falcons.
Monday afternoon, Jasper and one of his education raptor colleagues, a female gray phase eastern screech owl named Willow, took a field trip from their Saegertown home to Meadville’s Seton Catholic School, where they met with the group of five first-graders known as the Seton Girl Scout Daisies who suggested to the folks at the center that the name “Jasper” would be perfect for the little guy. Their suggestion was chosen from almost 200 names submitted in response to a plea from the center for help in naming its new owl.
Daisies Claire Landefeld, Ellie DiChristina, Jazalyn Andrews, Emily Chatley and Skylar Borland came up with the winning entry after coming up with a list of names after a recent visit to the center organized by leaders Kelly Landefeld and Jessica Borland and narrowing the choices down to a single entry. Participating in the same field trip, Girl Scout Juniors Jessica Grinnell, Emma Landefeld and Mia Sorenson came up with a less-successful suggestion, “One-Eyed Joe.”
The girls from both troops were gathered for their regular after-school meeting Monday when Jasper and Willow arrived for a surprise thank-you visit. The owls were accompanied by Executive Director Carol Holmgren and Allegheny College students Kasey Hinkle and Kathleen Macie, who help out at the center on a regular basis.
“It was a hard choice, but we fell in love with the name Jasper,” Holmgren told the delighted scouts. Considering that people from all over the country had submitted suggestions on the center’s Facebook page, by snail mail and in person at the center, the fact that “Jasper” was submitted by a group from Meadville made the choice even better, she added.
“Names were submitted by preschool classes, nursing home residents, library reading programs, elementary school classes and individuals of all ages,” Holmgren explained. Some suggestions such as Chestnut, Oakley and Cedar highlighted the bird’s natural history of nesting in tree cavities, she continued, while others including Flame, Gingersnap and Butterscotch focused on his red color. Names like Pirate, Winky and Patches played with the idea of his missing eye, while some, including Icarus, Odin, Lowin or Horus, were drawn from ancient mythology. Names like Brave Heart, Wounded Warrior and Courageous referred to his having what it takes to recover from a serious injury and embark on a new life.
After what Holmgren described as “a difficult deliberation,” the name Jasper was selected. “We liked the sound of the name — it’s kind of spunky and he’s like that some time,” she chuckled.
However, that’s only part of the story. The gemstone known as red jasper has a color similar to Jasper’s feathers — and is also known for protecting against the hazards of the night. “The name is also associated with healing, justice and energizing balance,” Holmgren added.
For those who may encounter Jasper and Willow either at the center or out and about on one of their educational field trips, they’re both full grown. Willow, who was named by the public in 2010 after a wing injury serious enough to prevent her return to the wild led to her joining Tamarack’s team of educational ambassadors, is the larger of the two. That’s natural, Holmgren explained, because female owls are bigger than their male counterparts.
Did you know?
Tamarack Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center is a nonprofit organization located in rural Saegertown. For information about meeting Jasper in person, visit tamarackwildlife.org or call the center at 763-2574.