Owls get second chance

Barn owls rescued from a North Saanich industrial site released back into wild

Barn owls

Barn owls

Barn owls found in the refrigeration duct of the Thrifty Foods warehouse in North Saanich earlier this year have been returned to the wild.

In June, the BCSPCA Wild ARC got a call from one of the companies working on the Mills Road warehouse asking for assistance with a nest of four baby owls that were living in the ducting.

“They were only two weeks old when we rescued them,” said Wild ARC Senior Wildlife Rehabilitator, Christina Carrières. “In situations like this we usually try to move the nest somewhere close by where the parents can still raise the babies but this situation was unique because there wasn’t anywhere close enough to do that.”

The babies were taken to the Wild ARC facility in Metchosin where they stayed for almost four months, thanks to financial support from Wales McLelland Construction Co. Ltd. who donated the necessary funding for Wild ARC to rehabilitate the owls.

Carrières said the babies, three females and a male, were all in excellent condition and the wildlife rehabilitators hand-fed them on an hourly basis to match the care they would have been receiving from their parents. Wild ARC also modified an enclosure to mimic a natural setting and to minimize stress and the possibility of human imprinting.

The four nestlings were placed in a nest box from which they could fledge into the aviary when they were ready to take their first flight. The babies were fed through an opening at the back of the nest box, Carrières noted, allowing staff to feed them from the outside of the aviary and limit human contact. Once the babies left the nest, it took them only a couple of days to start eating on their own, she said.

“In situations like this, a lot of people don’t realize that we only bring animals into Wild ARC as a last resort,” she said. “If it’s at all possible we always try and leave them in their natural habitat so their parents can raise them but we had no other choice here.”

Unfortunately, Carrières said, due to an unpredictable event, one of the females died in care only a few days before the owls’ scheduled release, but the other three were released Oct. 13 in the Kemp Lake area in Sooke.