Arrow-right Camera

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Sunday, February 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 33° Partly Cloudy

Outdoors blog

Mt. Spokane HS snowy owl puts on digestion clinic

A snowy owl regurgitates a pellet of bones and fur while perched new Mt. Spokane High School on Dec. 3, 2012. (Ron Dexter)
A snowy owl regurgitates a pellet of bones and fur while perched new Mt. Spokane High School on Dec. 3, 2012. (Ron Dexter)

WILDLIFE WATCHING -- An arctic migrant snowy owl  continues to treat birdwatchers near Mount Spokane High School, not only by perching and modeling for photos, but also by letting people watch as it hunts nearby for rodents.

Of course, most of what goes in must come out.

You don't need a degree in anatomy to guess that bones are expelled easier from the front end, rather than the rear. 

Owls have a cool way of internally wrapping the sharp bones they ingest in the fur and feathers of their prey. This neat little package, called an owl pellet or casting, is regurgitated -- a prize for the curious, picked apart by many biology classes.

Local birder/photographer Ron Dexter caught the snowy owl in an act with his camera.  The photo above might leave you a little breathless to see the size of that pellet.  To the owl, it's just another moment of relief.

Here's Dexter's Monday report:

This is the Snowy Owl that is still hunting early morning and late afternoon at the Mt. Spokane High School on HWY 206.

I captured these images of it a few days ago as it regurgitated the large pellet from it's stomach after acids had eaten all of the meat and blood leaving just the fur and bones to be expelled.

I collected the pellet and disected it at home and found 5 rodent skulls and skeletons. Two of the skulls were twice the size of the other 3.

School students sometimes using charts can identify the exact type of rodent. I suspect the large ones are voles and the smaller ones mice. Lots of fun.

Afterthought:  A reader wonders about the timing of reading these Outdoors Blog posts.



Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

Follow Rich online:




Go to the full Outdoors page