A one-eyed Eurasian eagle owl found injured in a forest by hikers has been nursed back to health and released into the wild.
The huge owl was discovered last October on a mountainside in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in Switzerland blinded in its left eye which is completely clouded over.
A woman from the nearby city of Bellinzona first spotted the bird which could not spread its wings and kept falling over.
Realising it was vulnerable to predators, she called animal rescuers but they could find no trace of the injured eagle owl at the scene.
It was eventually rescued later after two German hikers found the bird barely alive in woods on the mountainside.
President Emanuele Besomi, of animal conservation organisation SPAB, said: “The eagle owl was severely malnourished.
“He had a cloudy pupil. Blood flowed over his beak. We immediately took him to the vet.”
The vet suspected the bird had suffered a severe concussion as he could not find anything wrong with the wings.
The owl, which was named ‘Curzutt’ after the mountain settlement, near Bellinzona, where it was found, was slowly nursed back to full health.
Mr Besomi said he was convinced the eagle owl would have been dead within a few hours, probably at the teeth and claws of a fox, if it had not been found by the hikers.
He said the powerful bird remained calm throughout and allowed itself to be treated, adding: “Wildlife sense it if you want to help them and they need help.”
Four months on, Mr Besomi and the animal rescuers of SPAB have now released Curzutt back into the wild and are confident about his prospects.
He said: “Even though he is still blind in one eye, now he can hunt again, he will make it!”
The Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), also called the European eagle-owl, is one of the largest species of owl with a wingspan of up to 1.88 metres (6 ft 2 ins).