The first of three great horned owls leaves the carrier with the help of SORCO’s Dave Whitton (left) and Dale Belvedere last week at the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. The owls survived warfarin poisoning in May. Mark Brett/Western News

Taste of freedom for owls released in Oliver

Three owls poisoned released back into the wild at Oliver winery

Three members of a great horned owl family got to taste freedom again last week, released at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery near Oliver.

The trio, a mom and two youngsters, spent the last 10 weeks at the SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre where they had been treated for warfarin poisoning.

SORCO manager Dale Belvedere and board chairman Dave Whitton lifted the pet carrier with the owls inside onto a ledge on one of the upper decks of the main building as they prepared to set the birds free.

Related: UDPATE: Owls being treated for suspected Warfarin poisoning

One by one, with a little encouragement, the owls flew away into the vineyards to the cheers and applause of the crowd gathered below.

For one of the people on the deck watching the release, seeing the owls returning to the wild had an extra special meaning.

“It was very emotional. I’m just so glad to see that they made it through, they’re healthy and everything is OK,” said Dawn Brooks, who manages the Lakeside Resort in Oliver and who first alerted Belvedere to the owls’ plight.

“I saw the mother one night kind of hopping across the grass and then she went into a cabana and I thought something doesn’t look right. I thought, if she’s there in the morning I’ll call SORCO and she was.”

Related: Poisoned owls on the mend

The babies, not as badly affected as the mother, were sitting in a tree not far away.

“It’s like she felt safe in the cabana and knew that the babies were nearby her,” said Brooks.

It’s thought the poisoning happened when the parents ate rodents which had ingested the poison at a nearby trailer park and then fed the owlets.

The male had not been seen for several days when Belvedere arrived. It’s thought he died from the poison.

The young owls had just started to fly a little but were not yet proficient and one had to be rescued from Tuc-el-Nuit Lake by a resort staff member during the attempt to catch them.

Related: Public invited to owl release party Sunday

Brooks said she is planning to talk to the man who looks after the trailer park about the matter and the use of such poison.

“Thank you to Dawn,” said Belvedere before releasing the owls. “She was the one who noticed she was in trouble and called us right away otherwise we don’t know what would have happened to these three.

“Thank you, Dawn, for being so observant.”

She also thanked Jim Wyse, Burrowing Owl’s founder, for his ongoing outstanding environmental support including SORCO and the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of B.C.


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SORCO’s Dale Belvedere (right) and Dave Whitton release one of three great horned owls at the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. Mark Brett/Western News

Not too patiently awaiting its release, a great horned owl in its carrier. Mark Brett/Western News

SORCO’s Dale Belvedere (right) and Dave Whitton release one of three great horned owls at the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. Mark Brett/Western News

The crowd gathered at the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery for the owls release. Mark Brett/Western News

One of the owls in the flight pen before its release. Mark Brett/Western News

One of the owls in the flight pen before its release. Mark Brett/Western News

SORCO manager Dale Belvedere with one of three owls that were released back into the wild. Mark Brett/Western News

SORCO manager Dale Belvedere and volunteer Trish Dobransky pack up one of the owls at the centre. Mark Brett/Western News

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