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Oliver, B.C., man calls for power pole safety upgrades after 2 baby owls electrocuted

Click to play video: 'Okanagan man calls for changes after family of owls electrocuted' Okanagan man calls for changes after family of owls electrocuted
Okanagan man calls for changes after family of owls electrocuted – May 28, 2019

An Oliver, B.C., man is calling on FortisBC to bird-proof all of its power lines in the province after two owl fledglings were electrocuted earlier this month.

Donald Lawlor said he watched two great horned owls nest in a tree outside his residence in the South Okanagan a couple of months ago.

Watching the owls lay eggs, which eventually hatched into two fledglings in the nest, became a neighbourhood spectacle.

Donald Lawlor captured this photo of one of the fledglings before it was electrocuted on a power pole. Courtesy: Donald Lawlor

Lawlor and his wife, Maria, even named the family of owls: the mother, Gretta; the father, Bogart; and the babies, Hoppy and Happy.

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But the glory of watching the birds of prey in their natural habitat came to a sudden end when the two fledglings were killed on May 9.

Lawlor said there were exposed wires between insulators on the pole, and when one of the fledglings, who was learning to fly, attempted to return to its home tree, its wing brushed the wire.

The other fledgling, close behind, was also electrocuted when the explosion occurred.

WATCH (Dec. 17, 2017): Rat poison suspected of killing owl

Click to play video: 'Rat poison suspected of killing owl' Rat poison suspected of killing owl
Rat poison suspected of killing owl – Dec 17, 2017

“They fell down — the two fledglings were dead,” he recalled.

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Lawlor said he and his neighbours, who had grown fond of the owl family, were devastated.

“It was shocking. We just couldn’t believe what was happening,” he said on Sunday.

“Even after it happened, we were just so stunned. It was appalling, and other people, when we spoke to them, they were extremely upset. There were several women that were crying about it,” he added.

One of the baby owls perched on a roof. Courtesy: Donald Lawlor

“I was upset myself, almost speechless when it happened. It was such a shock for it to happen for two little baby owls that were just starting to grow.”

He said the mother and father owls continued to hunt for their deceased offspring.

WATCH (Oct. 24, 2014): Orphaned baby barn owls rescued from under Port Mann Bridge

“The mother and the father were calling for the birds for a few hours. I guess they didn’t quite understand they were killed, and the father came back with a mouse a few hours later to feed them and then they hung around for a little while and wailed and made some noises and they took off,” he said.

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Lawlor is now calling on the utility company to bird-proof all of its electrical lines in the province.

“I’d like to see them do all of the poles in British Columbia. Wherever there is a power pole like that, it is not only a danger to birds of prey but it’s also a danger to fires,” he said.

Courtesy: Donald Lawlor

“There was a fire not far from here, at Lake Skaha, that was started by an osprey that was electrocuted a few years ago, and it fell into the trees and it did catch on fire and there was a forest fire.”

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FortisBC said it’s committed to protecting the natural habitat within its operations and that incidents like this are rare, according to a statement issued to Global News.

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“Although we take a number of steps to protect birds and other wildlife from our system, there remain some legacy structures, like this one, still to be updated,” corporate communications adviser Nicole Brown said.

“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.”

However, Lawlor said a cover has not been placed on the power pole outside his home more than two weeks after the incident and that a claw is still visible on the line.

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