OWL rehabilitation society volunteer Gary Turner releases an injured bald eagle in Malakwa on Friday, June 5. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)

VIDEO: Rehabilitated eagle released in Malakwa after nearly three-month recovery

The bird took its first free flight in over two months on June 5.

As the blanket was being pulled off the dog carrier, the bald eagle within began pecking at the door.

The clicks and gurgles coming from its bright yellow beak oozed agitation and excitement.

The bird’s long and painful journey was about to end with its first free flight in more than two months.

On March 15, the eagle was found on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway in Malakwa by a woman returning to the Lower Mainland from Revelstoke. After a few phone calls looking for someone who could care for the injured bird, she was able to turn it over to Gary Turner, a Vernon resident who rescues birds for the OWL Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society.

The following day, the eagle was on a commercial flight to Vancouver and then off to OWL’s facility in Delta.

Turner said staff told him the eagle was a mature and exceptionally large female of about eight years old. Her leg was broken, likely due to a collision with a vehicle.

At the facility, the bird’s injuries were healed and she had made a full recovery.

On June 5, volunteers returned the caged raptor to Turner so he could release her near the area where it had been hit. On the shoulder of a rural road approximately half a kilometre from the highway, Turner opened the gate of the cage and the eagle sprang free.

She came to a stop with its talons in the dirt, looked at the small group of onlookers for a split second and then lunged into the sky. As it wheeled south over a farmer’s field, the eagle was briefly harassed by a pair of crows, but a few powerful wing beats outpaced the smaller birds and took her to the top of a tall tree.

Read More: $30,000 over 30 weeks for local causes

Read More: Salmon Arm RCMP arrest person of interest in suspected arson that destroyed garage

Turner said he hoped a reunion would follow the release as mature eagles usually have an established mate, and the rehabilitated bird’s could still be nearby.

Among those watching in wonder as the eagle left the cage were Colleen Thurgood and her grandchildren, Aspyn and Cohen Dupuis.

“It was so cool,” Aspyn said as the trio scanned the horizon for another glimpse of the bird.

Turner’s expression as the eagle flew off showed more focus and concern than awe. He has been a volunteer with OWL for more than 20 years and recounted some bird rescues that did not have such happy endings.

Being one of the society’s few volunteers in the Southern Interior, his workload can be immense.

He sometimes receives multiple calls a day to go help injured birds. He said more volunteers assisting with rescues and transport would be greatly appreciated. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, airlifts like the one the eagle benefited from are not feasible and so the OWL volunteers are shuttling birds too and from the rehabilitation centre by car.

Read More: Boating Safety Week a chance to take stock of hazards on Shuswap Lake

Read More: Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

The work is very important to Turner. He said more than 90 per cent of the injured birds he has aided were negatively affected by humans in some way, so humans should take responsibility for their recovery.

He said birds of prey are not only majestic but also serve an important ecological niche controlling the population of rodents and other small animals.

Further information about volunteering with or donating to OWL can be found on their website owlrehab.org or by emailing info@owlrehab.ca.



jim.elliot@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Six affordable homes slated for Lumby

The village and Habitat for Humanity enter agreement to build on Shields Avenue

Fines now payable by credit card in Coldstream

Card payment option now available for parking and other violation tickets

Downtown Vernon #OpensWithCare amid COVID-19

Back to business, but not as usual as pandemic continues

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

Vernon chamber warns against spread of invasive species

Concerns tied to increased promotion of domestic travel during the pandemic

21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in B.C. as virus ‘silently circulates’ in broader community

Health officials urge British Columbians to enjoy summer safely as surge continues

Bikers Are Buddies set up in North Okanagan-Shuswap

Non-profit motorcycle group rides to raise awareness around bullying

Separate trials set for 2018 Kelowna Canada Day killing

Four people have been charged with manslaughter in relation to Esa Carriere’s death, including two youths

Kootnekoff: New workplace harassment and violence requirements

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years.

Dyer: Buying an electric car

Kristy Dyer is a columnist for Black Press Media who writes about the environment

Summerland Museum to hold walking tours

Community’s past will be explained during series of summer tours

Summerland mayor asks for community conversation following racist vandalism

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

HERGOTT: Goodbye column

Paul Hergott is taking a break from writing for Black Press

Province agrees to multimillion-dollar payout for alleged victims of Kelowna social worker

Robert Riley Saunders is accused of misappropriating funds of children — often Indigenous — in his care

Most Read