One great horned owl chick is dead and another is in care at the South Okanagan Rehab Centre for Owls (SORCO) as a result of unnecessary and illegal human intervention.
SORCO manager Dale Belvedere said she received a number of calls about a young owl pecking at peoples’ feet and diving at them. She declined to identify the location because a third chick is still in the area.
Initially it was believed a single bird was responsible, however, when a volunteer arrived it turned out it was actually two sibling chicks.
“When we went to the first call, the bird ran up to the volunteer squawking, realizing this bird was imprinted we had to rescue it, when we got to the second bird it was eight feet up a tree and made a rescue impossible,” said Belvedere, adding she later learned people had been feeding the owls raw chicken for several weeks.
The following day she received additional reports saying more chicken had been put out and when the chick flew down in the night to get the food, it inadvertently hit a power line and was electrocuted.
“People were thinking their squawking was because they were hungry, and by feeding these birds they became human imprinted,” said Belvedere. “Why they thought these birds were in distress I have no idea. Probably because they were young and they were sitting on the ground but their mom is taking care of them, but she eventually deserted them because they weren’t relying on her. They were getting food from the whole neighbourhood. Then what happens is the birds become a nuisance and people start to complain.”
The fate of the bird currently in care is uncertain according to the manager, adding that the volunteer who retrieved it was able to: “pick it up and cradle it like a baby.”
It is being kept in isolation and Belvedere wears a mask when tossing food through the door.
“But it’s going to take a while for this bird to become wild again, if at all,” she said. “If not, it will have to go to a shelter which is like a zoo where it will have to spend the rest of its life.
“The big message people have to understand is, please don’t feed wildlife.”
Anyone with concerns about a raptor should contact SORCO immediately. The emergency number is 250-488-5435.