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Owls Rescued, Rehabbed, And Released With the help of the Ministry of Environment (MOE), the BC Wildlife Park, and BC Hydro six short-eared owls recently got a brand new lease on life– in the wild. They were released near Creston at the end of August, taking to the air and scouting out their new habitat with apparent ease. The release was assisted by staff from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP) and the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area (CVWMA). The six chicks, all from the same nest, were initially found near Revelstoke in late May by biologists conducting Water Licence Requirements monitoring studies in the Columbia System. The problem was that they were located in the drawdown zone of Upper Arrow Lakes Reservoir and water levels were expected to rise and submerge the nest. Short-eared owls are blue-listed (of special concern) in the province so a rescue plan was developed, and, in early June, the chicks were transported from the nest to the BC Wildlife Park near Kamloops by a Ministry of Environment biologist while BC Hydro contributed funds to their care. “We were really happy with the progress the owls made and to have all six survive, and thrive, was extremely satisfying,” said Paul Williams, animal care supervisor at the Park. “Four out of the six became adept at catching live prey in their enclosure and what we hope to see is that they will stay together after release and the two not so proficient at hunting will quickly pick up those skills from their siblings.” At approximately three months of age all six chicks were transported to the CVWMA. This 17,000 hectare wildlife refuge, with its numerous marshes and open grasslands is perfect habitat for the birds. The area is already home to short-eared owls.   “When the cages were opened some of the birds took to the air immediately while others preferred to hold back before tasting freedom,” said FWCP biologist Irene Manley, from BC Hydro. The FWCP works on behalf of its program partners BC Hydro, MOE and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to take proactive steps to protect fish and wildlife populations throughout B.C. “Within 30 minutes, however, all had taken wing and were flying effortlessly around the release site. They really are remarkable birds to watch.” “These beautiful young birds are alive and flying today

thanks to the passion, dedication and collaboration of a committed team of animal care professionals,” said Environment Minister Barry Penner. “I’m very proud of the contributions made by our ministry staff biologists and congratulate them and their partners in BC Hydro and at the BC Wildlife Park. It shows what we can accomplish in support of species at risk when we work together.” A biologist, funded by BC Hydro, will visually monitor the birds over the coming weeks to see how they do in their new environment. All the birds have received leg bands and non-toxic dye colouring on some feathers to make identification easier. The local birding community as well as others south of the border have also been informed of the release as the birds may migrate to the United States for the winter.

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Sept. 28, 2010



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