Under overcast skies four owls were released Friday near Williams Lake after recovering with the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation (OWL) Society in Delta.
The owls — two Great Horned and two Great Greys — successfully landed on the branches of nearby trees on Fox Mountain as some of the people who rescued them initially witnessed their flying to freedom.
“We found one of the Great Greys part way up Fox Mountain Road on our way home on Jan. 24,” said Kim Rutherford as she and her son Daniel and his friend Mitchell Blusson watched. “It was just swaying in the wind so we stopped and picked it up and put it in the car with us.”
Local resident Willi Borsch rescued the other Great Grey along Highway 20.
“It flew into a car and broke its wing,” he said. “It was sitting on a concrete divide, the snow plow went by and it didn’t even move.”
Borsch’s Pablo Creek Road neighbour rescued another owl that is still recuperating.
“I saw him and his son sitting with the owl on Highway 20 and told them I’d get help. It was cold and dark and the owl had a broken wing and bleeding beak.”
As he watched his owl fly away he said it was really exciting.
Daryl Livingston has been volunteering with OWL for 19 years and transported the owls for the release.
The Great Horned Owls weren’t rescued in Williams Lake, and the Great Greys were probably just passing through, he explained.
“The Great Greys will migrate north of Prince George to the Peace from here,” he said. “They come down here in the Winter.”
One of the Great Greys actually sat on Livingston’s glove-covered arm for a few moments while he talked about the owls, whereas the Great Horned and the other Great Grey flew off as soon as the cages were opened.
“It’s been a busy year for owls,” Livingston said. “We had a record number in 2014 of 560 something and we’re on our way to another big year.”
They’ve never had four Great Greys before, he added.
Sue Burton who volunteers in the region for 2nd Chance Wildlife Shelter in Quesnel had organized the release and was there to help Livingston, taking her turn letting two of them go.
“I wanted to acknowledge the work of the shelter and veterinarian Dr. Doug Magnowski at the Animal Care Hospital in Williams Lake,” Burton said. “He got the two Great Grey Owls and gave them physical exams.”
As the Great Greys flew away, Livingston said they can spot a mouse from 70 to 80 feet away beneath three feet of snow.
“They fly with one ear up and one ear down,” he smiled, adding the ways of the wild are so interesting.