Injured birds of prey in the East Kootenay get a new lease on life thanks to the efforts of the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation (OWL) facility in Delta and local volunteers. Above

Avians in distress: Who you gonna call?

Local volunteers, O.W.L. society gives injured birds of prey an new lease on life

  • Aug. 10, 2016 2:00 p.m.

Barry Coulter

A young bald eagle took his first flight out of the nest a few weeks ago and promptly crash-landed in a local lake. Two fishers hauled him into their boat and local OWL Rehab volunteers Sioux Browning and John Bradshaw sent him to the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation facility in Delta.

OWL fattened him up and gave him some time in the flight cages to get better at flying. He sent him back to Cranbrook for re-release.

Browning said that ordinarily he would be let go right where he was found, but as a newly independent juvenile, his parents would chase him out of their territory as soon as he was ready.

So the young eagle was released on the grassy, treed bench land west of the airport, close to the rivers and giving him a decent view of the world.

It has been a perilous summer for the raptors — also pictured is an osprey that hit a power line at the mill at Galloway and is currently undergoing treatment at OWL for a damaged wing.

The Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (O.W.L.) is a non-profit organization whose volunteers are dedicated to public education and the rehabilitation and release of injured and orphaned birds. The society is licensed through he Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

The facility specializes in raptors (i.e. eagles, falcons, hawks and owls), and patients number over four hundred each year. Primary care for injured birds (i.e. fluid injections, tube feeding, and initial treatment of broken bones to stabilize) is administered by staff. Veterinary care (i.e. surgery involving the pinning of fractures, radiographs and amputations) is contributed by local clinics.

Birds of prey are sent to O.W.L. from all over British Columbia, other provinces and the U.S. O.W.L. has a network of volunteers when pick-up is necessary.

In other O.W.L. News, a juvenile Great Horned Owl that was rescued and sent on to O.W.L. via Browning and Bradshaw in the spring, has a new lease of life as an ambassador bird.

Opa (“Grandfather” — named by the woman in Creston who rescued him off the side of the highway, had two broken wings when he arrived at O.W.L., neither of which could be set by surgery. The original diagnosis was that Opa was going to have to be put down, but staff but his wings instead, so he could hop around for a few months.

Browning said Opa’s wings have since set and Opa can fly, now but not well enough to be re-released into the wild.

O.W.L. put him to foster three orphaned Great Horned owlets, and he will henceforth serve as an ambassador bird and foster parent for O.W.L. One of the facility’s current Great Horned Owl ambassador birds — Blinky — has been with them since the 1980s and is too elderly for public appearances any more. So Opa will take over from old Blinky.

For more information on the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (O.W.L.), go to www.owlcanada.org.

Below: Volunteer Heather Browning releases a rehabilitated eagle on land close to the St. Mary and Kootenay Rivers.

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