Owl’s well that ends well

Naturalists rescue injured bird at Rochon Sands

Jill Higgins

Members of a local nature club offered their help to a fine feathered friend found in Rochon Sands Provincial Park earlier this month.

After finding a snowy owl struggling to fly, they rescued the bird and delivered it to Red Deer, where it was later taken to Medicine River Wildlife Centre.

Claudia Lipski, a member of the Buffalo Lake Naturalists, said she got the call on the afternoon of Nov. 5 about the bird, which had been discovered by Jill Higgins.

Higgins had seen the bird while walking along one of the paths at Rochon Sands, located along the south shore of Buffalo Lake.

In a post on Facebook, she said the owl was “trying to fly away but couldn’t, so it was just kind of hopping along.”

Higgins alerted her parents, Jennifer and Mark — both of whom are part of the Naturalists club, with Mark serving as the group’s president — and they contacted Lipski. She arrived a short time later with a box, blanket and leather gloves.

“It was struggling to fly,” said Lipski, describing how the bird couldn’t fly higher than a couple of feet off the ground when the group approached.

“It did try to get away,” she continued. “We just tossed the blanket over the owl.”

They placed the owl in the box and the Higgins family drove it to Red Deer, delivering it to a transfer point for Medicine River Wildlife Centre, which is located near the hamlet of Raven, about a half hour’s drive northwest of Innisfail.

According to the centre’s executive director, Carol Kelly, the owl is a young male, likely suffering from malnourishment.

“She said the owl had a concussion,” reported Lipski. “It’s doing well and it will be released in the near future.”

Lipski said she and other volunteers in the area are sometimes called to transport injured animals to the Wildlife Centre’s dropoff points. Last week, for instance, she delivered a grouse that had struck the window of a house in Alix.

“I certainly had never held a snowy owl,” she said, adding, “To be that close to one was pretty phenomenal.”

The Buffalo Lake Naturalists have been active since 1973 and currently have a membership of around 30 people. The club is part of Nature Alberta and meets monthly for guest speakers, wildlife surveys and other activities.

The club’s next meeting is on Thursday, Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. at St. George’s Anglican Church in Stettler. The group will host Sofie Forsstrom, who will make a presentation on the animal and plant life she studied in Uzbekistan.

Judy Boyd from the Medicine River Wildlife Centre will also be present selling the centre’s 2015 calendar, along with Otis the owl. Otis, who is blind, was rescued and brought to the centre; unable to be released, he is now a permanent resident there.

“There’s a lot of knowledge in that club,” said Lipski. “I always go home having learned something.”

The group welcomes new members and guests. For more information, visit www.buffalolakenature.com.


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