By: Laura Keil
Denise Carmichael, who lives on Loseth Road near Valemount, was in her garden checking for perennials when she spotted something else – a Great Grey Owl.
“As I approached more – ‘Holy crap. It’s an owl. Whoa.’”
“I walked a little closer thinking he was going to fly away. It didn’t. It didn’t even hop. He just spun his head around.”
“Then I saw blood down his body.”
She assumed the owl, which was perched on the ground, would soon be killed if she didn’t intervene. She got her dog’s kennel out of the storage shed, then placed the open kennel close to the owl, hoping to coax it in. It didn’t move.
Then she went around behind it. It still didn’t move.
Few people would have done what Carmichael did next – especially wearing just a pair of 99 cent knit gloves. She picked it up gently and put it in the kennel.
The owl had bright yellow eyes and blinked softly. Its feathers were downy.
Carmichael says her brother used to breed large parrots and she had experience handling those birds as well as the chickens on her own property. When she picked up the owl, it didn’t claw or struggle. No further blood came off.
Carmichael got the owl some food and water, and placed the kennel on top of a chest freezer next to her house.
“It hasn’t done anything that I’ve seen,” Carmichael said an hour or two after rescuing it. “It’s just moved towards the front of the kennel.”
Carmichael started working the phone to try to reach someone at a conservation or wildlife rescue service.
She talked to people at O.W.L. Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta as well as the B.C. Wildlife Park in Kamloops who both said they could accept the owl.
Carmichael said she had no idea what the injury was. Later that day, she arranged for the owl to be transported to Kamloops. Unfortunately it died before it reached the rescue service.
Adrienne Clay, Animal Health Tech at the B.C. Wildlife Park in Kamloops, said they have received more Great Grey Owls this year than in previous years. She is not sure why, but speculates it could be a natural population boom and decline. She notes that motor vehicle collisions are probably the biggest reason for admittance. Sometimes barbed wire fence can be the cause for their injuries.
Clay says people are welcome to rescue injured or abandoned animals in a safe manner. Due to space limitations, however, they do not accept black bears, cougars, lynx, grizzly bears, wolves, fledgling/nesting songbirds.
She advises approaching predator birds with a towel or blanket to throw over it to avoid personal injury.
Once you’ve got them in the crate, you can put them into a dog/cat crate or a cardboard box with some holes in it; she says to keep the box in a quiet dark room to decrease the animal’s stress while you phone them.
The Kamloops Wildlife Park phone number is 250-573-3242 ext. 230.