A great horned owl has been euthanized and a red-tailed hawk is facing a similar fate due in large part to the “irresponsible and illegal” human behaviour.
The B.C. Conservation Officer Service and SORCO Raptor Recovery Centre (based in Oliver) dealt with three cases recently, including two on the weekend, of people trying to keep the birds of prey as pets.
In the case of the red-tailed hawk, nicknamed Daisy, the raptor was found by an Armstrong man in his backyard when she was about two weeks old, according to SORCO manager Dale Belvedere.
She said the unidentified man kept the bird for nearly two weeks, feeding her only boneless, skinless chicken and as a result, the bird has not developed properly.
“It’s not a good story. She is standing now but she’s really small for her age because she didn’t get what she needed and she is completely, completely imprinted on humans,” said Belvedere. “She’s not even flying. She should be trying and is about half the size of a red-tail chick should be.
“Raptors eat the complete rodent and then they digest it and they get the calcium and magnesium from the bones and fur and then regurgitate them so she didn’t get that from a couple of weeks old.”
According to the manager, the man eventually called Conservation saying the hawk was not eating.
“They (Conservation) forced him to come down from Armstrong that night they were so livid he had her,” said Belvedere. The man was given a written warning.
The other two cases last weekend involved great horned owls.
One was in the Mission area near Kelowna where a woman reportedly found an injured owl on the side of the road. She contacted SORCO and was instructed to take the owl the veterinarian.
“The woman called the vet and said she’s not bringing it in she was going to keep it as a pet because it was so cute. This was an adult and it only had half a wing and it was missing three toes,” said Belvedere.
She said the vet told her how dangerous the bird could be and it was finally brought it in and euthanized.
“I think that was Sunday morning they brought it to the vet, and the people had had it since Friday night, so this poor bird suffered terribly,” said Belvedere.
The other incident involved a person who found a great horned owl on the highway between Osoyoos and Keremeos and took it home to Salmo, nearly four hours away.
“The lady who found it finally called me and I instructed them to bring it to the vet in Nelson and they didn’t and she shut off her cell phone,” said Belvedere who immediately contacted Conservation.
After four days, during which time the bird did not eat, it was taken to the vet in Nelson and has since been transferred to SORCO.
“It’s completely emaciated and it’s very, very weak,” said Belvedere. “People don’t understand it is illegal to keep a bird of prey because they are the property of the ministry (Environment and Climate Change Strategy) and they could receive a very hefty fine, as well as the longer it takes for us to get the bird, the less chance it has to survive.”
Micah Kneller, Conservation Officer for the North Okanagan, stressed the importance of turning in found birds to organizations best equipped to take care of them.
“People have the best interests of the bird at heart but in actuality, they don’t. They don’t have the skills or the knowledge to rear them. In the long run, it ends up being worse for the birds,” Kneller said. “We ask that if people find injured or orphaned wildlife to call a RAPP line number at 1-877-952-7277 and they can receive instructions from us from there.”