Dudley, a Great Horned Owl

It’s a cold, rainy day today, the middle of November, a time when the summer is past. I just received an email from the Carolina Raptor Center that Dudley, a Great Horned Owl and long time resident has passed away. I guess the timing is appropriate, since Dudley was a joy to a many visitors and supporters of the Carolina Raptor Center.

He was very old and had been imprinted by humans at an early age, so he could never have survived in the wild. Instead, his mission was amazing people, especially children. Dudley was nonplussed with children being just a few yards away.

In our increasingly urban and synthetic world, watching a child see a wild creature like Dudley up close was an experience. I think he imprinted many young minds with an appreciation of nature and the value of all things wild. There were always parents right behind, trying to capture the experience on their cell phones.

Dudley, a Great Horned Owl

Dudley was also a great model. At the regular Photo Wild events the Raptor Center puts on for amateur photographers he was a regular feature. I know that he and his compatriots were a big factor in developing my own love for nature photography. There is just nothing like getting a crisp and detailed close up shot to inspire a photographer to get that long lens and get out into the woods.

By next spring’s Photo Wild event, the Raptor Center will probably have rescued another damaged owl to take Dudley’s place. That’s the way nature works. The rain will stop and the sun will reappear. I’ll still miss Dudley.

This is the complete text of the email from the Carolina Raptor Center.

HUNTERSVILLE, NC: Long-time resident of Carolina Raptor Center, Dudley, the Great Horned Owl, passed away Sunday morning from complications from a tumor.

The tumor was found in a routine  exam by staff on Thursday. Emergency surgery was performed by Dr. Dave Scott. After the initial procedure, Dudley showed some improvement. It was clear, however, early Sunday that he was declining quickly and staff gathered to say their goodbyes. Dudley was 30 years of age and had lived long past the expected life span of a Great Horned Owl in the wild (5-15 years according to the National Geographic website).

For over 20 years, Dudley has captured the hearts and minds of audiences old and young. He was featured in video presentations and TV appearances, on billboards, and in other information pieces about the Center. In recent years, he was rarely seen without his “alter ego,” Executive Director Jim Warren.

“Dudley was a great ambassador for Carolina Raptor Center,” said Executive Director Jim Warren. “He accompanied me to many presentations for donors, friends and the media. He was central to many of the public programs we presented. It is inevitable when I see school aged kids (and many times, adults), they will ask me ‘How’s Dudley?’ I will miss him.”

Dudley came to Carolina Raptor Center after a well-meaning family had taken him in as a baby causing him to be imprinted on humans. After developing rickets from an improper diet, Dudley broke a wing and was taken to a local vet who transferred him to Carolina Raptor Center. (The Migratory Bird Act deems it illegal to be in possession of wild birds including Great Horned Owls unless permitted by US Fish and Wildlife.)

“It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that Dudley, the Great Horned Owl, passed away this morning at 30 years of age. …Goodbye to our sweet old man; you will be missed,” said Programs Director Natalie Childers in an email yesterday to staff and volunteers.

Carolina Raptor Center



Carolina Raptor Center’s Facebook page, with other amateur photo’s of Dudley

Carolina Raptor Center’s home page