It is with a heavy heart that we share that one of our Raptor Ambassador colleagues, Galileo, died of liver disease last week. Galileo had been with HawkWatch International since 2016, touching thousands throughout the Intermountain West.
“It is always difficult to lose a Raptor Ambassador, but especially one as sweet and charismatic as Galileo,” shared Education Director Melissa Halvorsen. “Our team is mourning the loss of one of our dear colleagues.”
A Short-eared Owl, Galileo was one of the few representatives of his species living in captivity. This made him an excellent ambassador for the species, which is understudied and potentially of conservation concern.
“Galileo joined us at the perfect time, right as we were embarking on a multi-year study, project Short-eared Owl study (Project WaFLS), to understand population levels and conservation concerns in the species,” reflected Nikki Wayment, Executive Director. “Although the project has since ended, Galileo continued to serve as a reminder of the many owls and other raptors whose conservation needs may not even be known due to a lack of research.”
During his time at HawkWatch International, Galileo captured the attention of over 20,000 people across Utah. This includes our own staff, volunteers, and supporters, who shared a deep love for this sweet owl. “While I adore every single one of our Raptor Ambassadors, Galileo truly held a special place in my heart,” shared Educator Laura Cleveland. He was so curious and quirky and so endearing that he won me over in no time at all.”
Galileo also captured the hearts of one of his rescuers, photographers, and long-time friends of HWI, Mia McPherson and Ron Dudley. “Galileo was a handsome devil with a beguiling personality, so it was easy to see why he was so adored,” he shared shortly after Galileo joined the HWI team.
Ron and Mia found Galileo in the summer of 2016 when they were photographing birds in Northern Utah. A fledgling bird, Galileo accidentally flew into a barbed wire fence and became stuck—an unfortunately common injury in young raptors learning to fly.
Luckily for Galileo, Ron and Mia happened to be in the area photographing birds and were able to successfully rescue him from this deadly situation. Thanks to their quick action, Galileo survived his injuries and became a Raptor Ambassador at HawkWatch International in late 2016.
As we say our goodbyes to Galileo, we take comfort in remembering his namesake, Galileo Galilei, an astronomer who looked towards the heavens. We can only hope that after an unplanned lifetime in captivity, our dear Galileo is finally flying free in the heavens above us.
This blog was written by Kirsten Elliott, HWI’s Development and Communications Director
You can learn more about Kirsten here.