Pete is one of the lucky ones, surviving two life-threatening conditions thanks to his care at the South Okanagan Rehab Centre for Owls (SORCO).
While many people, including centre manager Dale Belvedere initially had their doubts he would live, last Sunday they wished him well as he was released back to the wild in the hills above Ellis Canyon.
In early November of last year the adult, red tailed hawk was found on the ground near Vernon, unable to stand upright or use his talons.
“We didn’t think he would make the first couple of days, that’s how bad he was. He couldn’t eat, we had to force feed him three times a day,” recalled Belvedere. “It was touch and go, but we gave him our best shot and here he is ready to be released back into the wild on Sunday.”
Initial X-Rays did not reveal any obvious breaks and the diagnosis was leaning towards electrocution or more likely a serious infection.
“We started with mass antibiotics and after a few weeks with a lot of therapy he was able to get his talons open and he was starting to stand,” said Belvedere. “But then he suffered a severe respiratory infection but with further treatment though, he regained his health and was ready to go.”
When asked how it felt to see him leave she replied with a laugh: “Horrible, no not really, I mean all birds are special but this guy just touched everybody’s heart. For some of our volunteers it was the first bird they had seen that was really ill and survived and now they get to see him go, so that’s exciting.”
Usually the birds are released in the area where they were found but in this case, it was decided to set Pete free near the Garnet Fire Interpretive Centre on Beaverdell Road off Carmi Road.
Unlike his home range, which is covered in snow, the ground at the new site is barer which will make finding food easier giving him a greater chance of survival.
“We’ve trained him and he’s hunting on his own, so he knows what he’s doing so we have no doubt he’ll make it,” she said.
SORCO is located just north Oliver near Vaseux Lake and has just recently undergone some significant improvements, including a $75,000-plus medical clinic.
This was made possible through private donations and fundraisers and was built by the Okanagan College trades program.
“Without the new facilities, including the state-of-the-art hospital, we have we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing,” said Belvedere.
SORCO is hosting its 28th annual open house on May 1 and is an opportunity for the public to see the facilities where over 100 raptors make their temporary home annually. Although generally closed to the public, by arrangement the centre does offer educational visits and also goes out in the communities to do presentations.