The Tucson Wildlife Center says they’re seeing a spike in the number of animals, especially birds coming in, that have been shot.

Hubert Parker, the development director at the wildlife center, says unfortunately, this isn’t unusual.

“We get anywhere from 30 to 40+ a year, of birds that come in and have been shot,” he explained. “We do the best we can to help them.”

Their most recent patient at the only wildlife hospital in southern Arizona, is a Great Horned Owl. She ended up with a bone fracture when someone shot her with a pellet gun. The metal pellet, is now lodged in her chest, right near her heart. Surgery to remove it would be too dangerous, so the wildlife center is monitoring it and treating her fracture.

In about six weeks, they’re hoping they’ll be able to release her.

“The next step will be, after it heals enough, to see how she flies,” Parker said. “We have nice big raptor flight enclosure where we’ll watch to make sure she flies silently. That’s a big key to making sure she can catch her own food. Then we will release her, that’s our goal.”

Despite the fact that her life will forever be changed, this owl is lucky. Parker says when most animals, especially birds, get shot, even with BBs, they often don’t survive.

But even just hurting or harassing these majestic birds in any way is illegal.

“I want to just emphasize these raptors, birds, hawks, owls,” Parker explained, “they’re all protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Federal and state laws protect them. It’s against the law. Please help protect our wildlife.”

He says if you ever hear gunshots, or if you find an animal that his been shot, please contact the Arizona Department of Fish and Game. They have a wildlife hotline you can call at 1-800-352-0700. If you don’t know where to call, you can also contact the Tucson Wildlife Center at (520) 290-9453 and they’ll point you in the right direction.