Owl with eye lens implant to be released back into wild

April 28, 2004

The great horned owl that received the first-ever specifically designed and fabricated intraocular lens implants at the School of Veterinary Medicine on Jan. 22, will also be the first owl released into the wild after cataract surgery and implantation of intraocular lenses.

It will be released Friday, April 30, at 3 p.m., at the same property where it was found.

Found perched on a fence near Manitowoc, Wis. on Dec. 1, 2003, the owl had become emaciated because cataracts fouled its vision and prevented it from hunting. Wildlife of Wisconsin (WOW), Manitowoc area rehabilitators, rescued the owl. While other veterinary ophthalmology specialists could have removed the cataracts, ophthalmologists at UW-Madison were able to offer specially designed intraocular lenses that would restore the owl's vision after surgery.

Photo of owl during surgery

Renee Carter, a veterinary ophthalmology resident, removes a stitch from the eyelid of a great horned owl recovering from cataract surgery and implantation of intraocular lenses.(Photo: Jeff Miller)

The lenses had been designed and custom-made for another great horned owl six years ago by Christopher Murphy, veterinary ophthalmologist at UW-Madison, and Chuck Stuhr, who was at the time a UW-Madison ophthalmology resident. That owl was not a good candidate for surgery. So, the lenses were still available.

Murphy and ophthalmology residents Renee Carter and Katie Diehl surgically implanted the lenses in the owl's eyes on Jan. 22.

Recovery for the owl has progressed well. After surgery, WOW operators Jerry and Susan Theys applied antibiotic-steroid eye drops to the owl's eyes to minimize inflammation and prevent infection, and gradually fed the bird back to full strength. Rehabilitation included moving the owl to progressively larger cages, then flight cages, and reintroducing it to live prey.

The owl will be fitted with a radio transmitter so its post-release progress can be tracked.

The owl is being released from the property of Renee and Rod Prausa, 7029 Sunset Drive in Two Rivers.