The holding pens at the South Okanagan Rehab Centre for Owls are literally bursting at the seams with the recent influx of injured and orphaned birds of prey.
According to Ken Fujino, who operates the rural facility just north of Oliver owned by The Land Conservancy, not only are he and volunteers caring for large numbers but a wide variety of species.
“This is definitely a lot more owls than we normally get,” said Fujino, who took over management of the centre from founder Sherri Klein in 2008. “We’ve got four baby great horned owls, three saw-whet owls, we’ve got a western screech owl and we just released a barred owl last Sunday.
“Oh, and we’ve got a rare visitor — the first one I’ve got since I started — a long-eared owl and a bald eagle as well.”
He believes the great horned owlets are this year’s brood and were likely pushed or fell from their nest, and for one reason or another were not able to be returned.
Once they are able to fend for themselves in terms of hunting and after learning to fly, will be released.
The barred owl was found along a roadway near Oliver and was likely clipped by a vehicle, however, has since recovered enough to be set free this weekend.
At this stage there is no indication of what happened to the long-eared owl, which was on the ground and under attack by crows when it was picked up by a good samaritan.
“I’ve only had this one for about three days and there doesn’t seem to by anything physically wrong, so we’ll just keep our eyes on it for a while to make sure,” said the former conservation officer.
He believes the increased number of birds coming to the centre is partly due to the public’s knowledge of SORCO’s existence and the fact a similar operation in Salmon Arm closed down last year.
“Right now this is taxing our resources quite a bit because we are the only ones doing this kind of work in the Okanagan, and since we lost our gaming grant (from the province) our funding is strictly through public donations,” said Fujino.
“We’ve been lucky so far, Fortis gave us a donation and Penticton Community Foundation did as well, but we can always use more.”
He added that without the assistance of Penticton veterinarian Dr. Steve Harvey, who donates his time and skills to help the injured birds, SORCO would not likely be in existence today.
There is also a need for money to pay for medication as well as donations of supplies such as towels and other items.
Although Fujino noted the top thing on the wish list right now is a lawnmower.
Future plans include replacing the current on-site clinic which has been in use for nearly three decades with a larger building and some improved equipment.
“We would also like to get more volunteers, right now we’re just getting by with what we’ve got,” said Fujino. “What I really need is someone with computer skills who could donate a couple of hours a week to keep our website current and help me with my computer work.”
Anyone wishing to help the centre with items or money to donate or to volunteer can call SORCO at 250-498-4351.