A fledgling red-tailed hawk, illegally kept by an Armstrong man, has been euthanized, a fate the bird may have been spared.
According to Manager Dale Belvedere of SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre, who had been caring for the hawk she called Daisy, it had simply become too imprinted on humans to have any chance of survival in the wild or even as a falconer’s bird.
“She also had a small fracture of one wing but that would have healed and if we had been called right away she wouldn’t have been imprinted and that would have made her a bird for release,” said Belvedere who at the same time she got the hawk in late July was dealing with two other people who had great horned owls in their possession they refused to give up.
Two falconers later saw the hawk, including one at the BC Wildlife Park in Kamloops where she was transferred. Both trainers felt there was no chance of her overcoming the initial imprinting.
“So it was just for humane reasons we decided to let her go,” said Belvedere. “It’s a very, very sad story at the end of it all. Just don’t pick them up. Imprinting can happen in a matter of days.”
For North Zone Conservation Officer Ken Owens the hawk was just one of three cases of people unlawfully in possession of live wildlife he investigated that day.
“I dealt with an individual in Kelowna who had a juvenile Canada goose in their chicken coop for two weeks and also that day I had a baby porcupine that this mother and daughter thought was orphaned and brought it back to their residence and kept it in the laundry room. The next day when I got there it had lost all its quills,” said Owens. “Porcupines are not super common in the Okanagan and they only have one baby. That’s just one particular day in our world.
“It’s heartbreaking is what it is, you know there’s certain individuals, they’re thinking they’re doing the right thing, but they’re not.”
He added, as in the case of the hawk, the longer people have wildlife in their possession the greater the odds of the animals dying or having to be euthanized although he does feel the actual numbers of people keeping wildlife are down in recent years.
“We see far too many instances of this, whether it be deer fawns picked up that are not orphaned, or like in this situation (red-tailed hawk) a fledgling bird picked up and kept by people. Maybe they’re injured and need some assistance and help but that’s why we have people like Dale who run a raptor rehabilitation facility (SORCO).”
The man who found the hawk, believed to be about two weeks old at the time, kept it for about 10 days however did not feed it a proper diet and as result when he surrendered it, it was terribly malnourished, imprinted and not expected to survive.
“That’s why we take a pretty tough line when people pick these animals up and possess them, at times for their own personal gain like this individual,” said Owens who noted there were indications the man had hoped to get an avery permit in the future. “We have the best interest of wildlife at heart and what went on in this situation was so wrong on every level.”
He repeatedly stressed that anytime when people see what they believe to be injured or orphaned wildlife to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line 1-877-952-7277 24 hours a day. SORCO’S number is 250-498-4251.
People keeping wildlife illegally face an out-of-court fine of $345 or can be tried and if found guilty fined up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding one year.
“We see far too many situations where the wrong things are being done,” said Owens. “A lot of the times when those calls come in we’re able to ensure the right thing is being done.
“The way I look at it is generally no good comes when wild animals are living in close proximity to people and are human habituated. It’s fantastic seeing wildlife but keep them wild, wild animals are meant to be wild.”