YORK (AP) – A wildlife rehabilitation center has treated dozens of injured barred owls that have been forced south in search of food this winter.

So far this season, the Center for Wildlife has treated 36 owls that were hit by cars and suffered broken wings and broken legs, eye trauma and bruising. The nonprofit has set up an emergency treatment fund to raise the money needed to care for the surge of injured owls.

The center normally takes in six to eight injured owls a winter, said rehabilitation supervisor Amy Titcomb.

Researchers believe the owl numbers are on the rise because the red-backed vole, the owl’s major food source, is on the decline in Canada. That means the owls have been coming south to Maine in search of food.

Once here, the owls have been swooping in on rodents that are eating roadside trash, where the birds can be easily hit by cars.

“It’s harder to find rodents in the snow. The road looks like a good hunting spot to (owls),” said Titcomb.

On the Net: www.yorkcenterforwildlife.org

AP-ES-02-09-08 1139EST

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