On Feb. 4, Norman Prelypchan and his wife Trudi noticed something peculiar. While out for their afternoon walk along Beach Drive near Mountjoy Road, they came across a dead squirrel and moved it to the side of the road. But it wasn’t the initial encounter with the roadkill that took the Prelypchans aback.
Later on when they returned for their evening walk, the same squirrel was once again back in the centre of Beach Drive, only this time, a second automobile victim lay by its side.
“There was an owl lying on its back, its head lulled over and blood coming out of its beak,” Norman said. “It was just heart-rendering, really.
“Its chest was heaving very quickly, many times per second, as if she might have been in a death throe.”
Norman picked up the owl by its talons, wings flopped to the side and placed it away from the road. Assuming the animal was at the end of its life, Norman turned back to walk home.
Then came a rustling from the brush.
The owl attempted to stand in what looked like a “drunken stupor,” he said.
Shortly afterward, Norman contacted the B.C. SPCA Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC), which sent a driver out to pick up the bird, an adult female barred owl.
At 11 p.m. she was taken to Central Victoria Pet Hospital and onto Wild ARC.
There, she was treated for head trauma and extensive bruising to her left wing. She also had a substantial amount of blood in her nose and eyes – a concern given the species’ reliance on night vision for hunting.
“Owls can very much defend themselves with claws and beaks, but in this case it was lying on its side and definitely not able to fight,” said Kari Marks, Wild ARC manager.
Marx suggests covering an injured bird with a towel or blanket if need be for rescue.
The owl was treated until last Friday (March 23) and when fully recovered, Wild ARC wildlife rehabilitator Louise Dykslag, facilitated a reunion of sorts.
In the late afternoon sun along Mountjoy Road, Norman, who as a child in the Prairies had once rescued and attempted to make a pet of an owl, and Trudi, stood watching the Wild ARC pickup truck. Dykslag retrieved the owl from the vehicle. When she released her hold on the animal, it flew skyward in what Trudi describes as a “very emotional” finish to their encounter.
“She’s beautiful,” Trudi said, eyes fixed on the owl.
“I’m home,” Norman said. “I’m home.”
Last year Wild ARC treated 44 owls, three from Oak Bay. The majority of the injuries were due to vehicle collisions. The Prelypchans contacted the News in hopes of spreading more awareness of Wild ARC and urban wildlife rehabilitation. For more information go to Wild ARC.