By Alex Wilks, Special to Peace Arch News
Witnessing a rehabilitated bird being released back into the wild is the most rewarding part of Sue Davies’ job.
The South Surrey resident is the assistant raptor rehabilitator and educator at OWL, also known as the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society.
OWL, located in Delta, is a non-profit charitable organization with a primary focus to provide care and rehabilitation to injured birds of prey – various species of eagles, owls, hawks and falcons.
The centre provides primary care, such as an initial X-ray, the stabilization of bone breaks, IV treatments and the administration of medication. Surgeries are then performed at veterinary clinics across the Lower Mainland.
Birds that suffer severe injuries and those that become too adjusted to human contact remain a permanent resident and become a community-education bird. Some of these birds even assist in fostering orphans.
“I love being here because I’ve always wanted to help nature and help the environment” Davies, 34, said.
“Our work directly helps these birds, these raptors. Rehabilitating them is just such an honour.”
Operating at a picturesque rental property just west of a runway at Boundary Bay Airport in South Delta, staff at OWL assess the progress of each bird daily. Davies is in charge of cleaning enclosures, feeding and providing medication and examination to the birds in the intensive care unit.
“These birds when they’re injured are pretty much at the mercy of nature so if we were not here these birds would most likely die,” she said.
“We’re just focused on the survival of these birds and giving them a second chance.”
Before she was a staff member Davies spent time volunteering at OWL to gain credit for a post-secondary class she took at BCIT.
After her first volunteer shift, her supervisor gave her the opportunity to exercise one of the resident barn owls.
“I had food on the glove, and she came flying down to take the food from my glove and fly back,” Davies said. “After my first day, I was set. I thought to myself that if I can get a job here, I would be ecstatic.”
Davies has witnessed firsthand how rehabilitation can save lives.
“I was fortunate enough to rescue a little saw-whet owl from a park nearby a few years ago,” she said.
“I was able to help with the rehabilitation and I got to go back to that same park and release him.
“It was just nice to be a part of that process and a part of his release.”
Volunteers at OWL work locally and provincially to rescue and transport birds back to the facility. The rehabilitation centre is expecting to care for more than 600 birds in 2016.
With a success rate of 75 per cent, most of the birds are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
“There are birds here that just have some intense and extreme injuries and to see them overcome those and to get to eventually release them back into the wild is pretty remarkable,” she said. “We like the public to know that every person that helps makes a difference.”
For more information, visit www.owlcanada.org or call 604-946-3171. By-donation tours are offered on weekends throughout the year, and daily in July and August.