owl

Great Horned mother owl Gretta, named by Oliver resident Donald Lawlor and his wife Maria, sits on an electrical pole waiting for her two fledglings to make their first flight to her.

 

UPDATED: May 26

Fortis responded to our request for comment after deadline. Here's what the utility company said in a statement:

"We’re committed to protecting the natural habitat within our operations. While incidents like this are rare, when they do happen, they’re a concern to us as well. Although we take a number of steps to protect birds and other wildlife from our system, there remains some legacy structures, like this one, still to be updated.

We were made aware of this earlier this month and since that time, our operations and environment teams have been working together to determine the best way to prevent this in future. Right now, they are evaluating the best cover to place at this structure.

"It’s important to us to continuously improve our system and make it safer for people and wildlife alike. In addition to adding bird-proofing on an ongoing basis, we have a program in place to safely relocate osprey nests. We also work with likeminded community members on wildlife protection projects. For example in Oliver, our crews are helping build the town's owl house as well as a rehabilitation centre for rafters.

"Anyone with concerns about our environmental standards, or would like to request support for a project, can call us at 1-866-436-7847 or visit fortisbc.com."

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Posted: May 24

An Oliver man is making a plea to Fortis BC to change wiring on electrical poles after he and his wife watched two owl fledglings be electrocuted to death.

Donald Lawlor said he and his wife, Maria, were fortunate to witness two Great Horned owls nest in a tree outside their window a couple of months ago that later become parents to two baby fledglings.

“The fledglings stayed in the nest for maybe a couple of weeks, and then they started hopping around,” said Lawlor. “We watched as the adult male brought back food. They hopped around, getting stronger.”

The couple even named each member of the family: the mom, Gretta, the dad Bogart, and the babies Hoppy and Happy.

Neighbours in their condo building would oftentimes stop by to get a better view of the family of owls.

And Lawlor and Maria were even witnesses to the babies’ first flight: a moment of purity soon turned into something out of a nightmare after a spark on an electrical pole killed both fledglings, leaving feathers and a talon behind.

“The mother went to a nearby power pole and called them to fly over there, and after a couple of days, one did fly over. And by the end of the day, the second one flew over,” explained Lawlor.

“There were exposed wires between insulators on the pole, and when they were flapping to return back to their home tree, one of their wings brushed the wire, and the other one was so close, so when the (explosion) was emitted, it killed both of them instantly.”

The fledglings were only seven weeks old.

“The mother fell to the ground and the bodies of the two fledglings fell to the ground,” said Lawlor.

The mother survived, but the babies did not.

“My wife had been watching them and she actually cried, as did some of the other neighbours here. To them, they were just little babies growing up.”

Power was knocked out to part of the complex and several residences nearby. Lawlor said FortisBC appeared several hours later to restore power and picked up the baby owls’ bodies.

And while it’s a sad thought to believe Fortis BC wouldn’t care to change the wiring for owls and other birds of prey, Lawlor said he hopes the risk of sparking a forest fire is enough to change their minds.

“There was one fire on Skaha Lake a few years ago that was caused by an osprey being electrocuted, and the bird fell and it started a fire and burnt a portion of the forest,” said Lawlor.

“It’s something they should address as a priority,” he said.

Both parents have now left the nest, with the father only returning once with a mouse in “hopes that the (babies) were still there,” said Lawlor.

Fortis BC did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.

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