Know what this little blob of material is on the roof of the sheep shelter? It’s an “owl pellet,” Gentle Reader. I bet I’ve unconsciously seen these a million times in my life, but never knew what they were, until last year.
A couple of quirky fellas showed up at our front door last spring, when the barn was still standing. They politely asked permission to look in our barn for owl pellets, and they showed me a grocery bag full of them in their trunk that they had collected already that day.
Huh? They had to explain to me what an owl pellet is- owl regurgitation of indigestible mouse parts, or whatever the owl recently ate (because apparently owls don’t poop them out like you might expect). When I asked why they wanted them, they were slightly evasive, and said they were collected for research on what owls ate. Ok, I thought, research is good, so I let them collect a few out of the barn. They had an uncanny knack for spotting them, they were real owl pellet bloodhounds, I tell ya!
Later, I looked it up. It turns out, owl pellets are the new frog for dissection in middle school biology classes. You see, people have gotten squeamish about kids dissecting real animals in school, it’s not very PC anymore. Owl pellets are a close educational second, in that you can see the whole skeleton and hide of the poor mouse victim. But, you can somehow feel better about how he died, being shredded alive by a sharp owl beak, as opposed to gently euthanized by a human for 8th grade educational purposes. Or at least you can blame the owl for killing him and sift through his sacred remains guilt-free. I guess. 🙂
So, because of this amazing cultural phenomenon sweeping the nation, these owl puke tidbits are actually worth money. Can you believe it? There are people who make a living out of talking their way into barns like ours (where, apparently, owls prefer to hurl!), collecting hundreds of these things, baking them in an oven to sterilize them, packaging them in little foil wrappers, and selling them to middle schools all across the U.S.! Bigger ones with cooler animal bones, like squirrel, bird or weasel, are higher value (around $5) than the run-of-the-mill mouse ones (worth only $1-2 retail). There is actually a pricing structure for owl vomitus!
So there you have it. After this peculiar visit from the owl pellet collector professionals and my subsequent reading on this burgeoning cottage industry, I notice these little gray blobs everywhere now. The owls seem to especially like to sit on the fence posts when they throw up, I find these quasi-turds often on the fence H-braces. And sometimes I stop to open up the pellets, to have my own little 8th grade biology lesson on what Mr. Owl last snacked. The one in the picture has already broken down a bit from the rain, and you can clearly see some bones in there.
If I ever lose my software job, I may start hoarding these, baking them on cookie sheets and marketing them on the web. They’re worth money, you know!