We would like to send a sincere thank you to several of MRWC's valuable volunteers this month. Four of our long serving members of the Board of Directors stepped down from their duties on the Board but do continue as volunteers in other areas. A big THANK YOU goes out to Shannon Foster, Ursula Schoeder, Aly Seymour and Connie Farion for their valuable time.
We love the years that we get a casino! They only come every 18 months or so, but when they happen we get a big injection of funds into our operating budget. This important fundraiser takes place on February 22/23 at the Cowboys Casino in Calgary, and will likely make us close to $70,000.
MRWC currently has 150 volunteers who help in areas such as on the Board of Directors, driving patients and public education. This month we have chosen to feature the amazing Lil Dupperon. We have featured the Pygmy Owl as well this month, who spent several days at the First Aid Station in Drayton Valley. Lil runs that station.
Lil began as a driver several years ago but moved into learning first aid due to the distance from us. If she could get some initial treatment into the patients before and during the trip to the Centre it gave them a much better chance of survival.
Her first real test came when a severe storm grounded her for several days shortly after receiving a Great Grey Owl. It was not safe to have Lil on the road so she cared for the bird with daily calls to the Centre until the roads improved.
Over the past couple of years, Lil has cared for numerous patients and is often called directly from residents in her area or the local Fish and Wildlife office as they have come to trust her. She keeps excellent records, works closely with staff at MRWC and uses her years of teaching experience to help educate the finders who bring patients to her. Her patient, determined nature has helped her work through some difficult situations and we can always be assured that she is a great ambassador for MRWC. Thank you Lil! You are a treasure.
MRWC is grateful to Telus for their recent grant of $5,000.
Thanks to the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, MRWC has new lead testing equipment. This testing equipment will allow for more timely identification of birds with higher than normal lead in their system. The Centre will also be able to share these cases with researchers across Canada who are involved with research in lead toxicity issues in our wildlife.
This tiny Pygmy Owl is the smallest species of owls in Alberta. Smaller than a pop can, they weigh just 62-73g! This little guy arrived in early January through our first aid station in Drayton Valley. It was underweight at only 47g and was suffering from a fractured humerus. The weather was extremely bad, making travel difficult and our staffing was limited, so the decision was made to have it begin its recovery in the capable hands of our first aid station.
A few days of one-on-one special care and our little owl had gained weight and was ready to travel. Our new little 60g patient is eating a mouse per day, exercising in its enclosure and will hopefully be released in spring.
Story by Judy Boyd
On Oct 8, 2013 one of our volunteers went out to the Edberg area to check on an owl that had been caught on barbed wire. We were all really excited when we realized that this was a Barn Owl, the first one to ever be treated at Medicine River!
To our knowledge, there has only been one other Barn Owl that was brought to a rehab centre in Alberta and that was a DOA (dead on arrival) case that came into the Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale. According to Alberta's Status Biologist, Dr. Gordon Court, this is only the third offical recording of a Barn Owl in Alberta. At least a decade ago, someone phoned into the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and described a Barn Owl. This sighting was never followed up on, but a few years ago, a report came in of a Barn Owl in the Rimbey area. I never saw the bird but I saw pictures and it definitely was one.
Being our first, we are learning all kinds of new things about this species of owl. My first impression was amazement at how small it is. It came in weighing 370 grams. Sibley's Guide gives the average weight of a barn owl as 460 grams. So this guy is underweight and we treated him for that. Actually I don't know what sex it is. Both males and females weigh the same amount.
I've always found that different species of owls react differently to rehab. Snowy Owls always bite. Great Gray Owls always clench their beak shut so in order to get any medicine down their throats you have to pry their beak open. If you have a Great Horned Owl with attitude, you have a female. The males are much more mellow. This Barn Owl tended to hold any medicine or fluids in its throat and wouldn't swallow. Because we've only dealt with the one, we don't know if this is typically when rehabbing this species.
EDITOR"S NOTE: Unfortunately, we were not able to save this owl. The severe emaciation was too far progressed for us to stop it. We did earn a lot from it's short stay with us and enjoyed the rare chance to be so close to this amazing bird.
On January 5, 2014, MRWC staff faced a new challenge. An unusual build-up of snow, high winds and a fallen tree all added up to cause one quarter of the eagle enclosure roof to collapse, killing two eagles, injuring one and leaving us with the reality that we will have to raise the funds for a new enclosure.
We are happy to report that the one injured eagle did make a full recovery! After staff dug him out of the snow and lumber when only his foot was exposed, he is lucky to be doing so well. He has no broken bones and was only suffering from shock and cold. The other five eagles in the enclosure were not affected and have been moved into the north side of the cage which has been deemed stable.
A re-build the eagle cage fund has been set up and a plan is being formulated for a new and improved structure. If you would like to contribute, please mark your cheque donation as "eagle cage fund". You can also donate by clicking here and select this project in the donation allocation drop-down box.
Staffing in our hospital saw some changes this fall. Adam Finch has gone back to his home in England and we have changed to a job sharing position in the hospital. The job is very demanding and we feel it will run more smoothly with two people sharing the responsibilities. Two local residents have come forward to take the position. We would like to welcome Kathy Taylor and Cameron Jenkins to the team!