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‘It’s horrible’: B.C. heat wave killed birds, some saved by Okanagan raptor centre

Click to play video: '‘It’s horrible’: B.C. heat wave killed birds, some saved by Okanagan raptor centre' ‘It’s horrible’: B.C. heat wave killed birds, some saved by Okanagan raptor centre
Last week’s historic heat wave in the Okanagan proved detrimental to local wildlife, killing countless birds, but as Shelby Thom reports, the Okanagan’s only birds-of-prey rehabilitation centre managed to save 40 raptors in 48 hours. – Jul 7, 2021

The Okanagan’s only birds-of-prey rehabilitation centre said it rescued 40 raptors in 48 hours during the height of B.C.’s heat wave, and countless others died.

Dale Belvedere, manager of the SORCO rescue and rehabilitation centre near Oliver, B.C., said the situation was unprecedented.

“We have never had this happen before in our history of 32 years,” she told Global News.

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“They were all suffering from major dehydration, starvation and heat exhaustion.”

He said SORCO received a baby osprey from Kelowna and was involved in rescues on Upper Bench Road and Duncan Avenue in Penticton last week.

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The osprey chicks were living on nesting towers near FortisBC utility poles and in major distress.

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“The babies were literally hanging over the side of the nest and panting. Numerous people called, so we went in and rescued them,” Belvedere said.

FortisBC works with SORCO to rescue osprey chicks from a nesting tower in Penticton, B.C., on Wednesday,. Courtesy: SORCO/Submitted

Others could not be saved.

“We are getting reports of other osprey nests and unfortunately they all perished before we were notified,” she said.

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“It is horrible. To be there and hear that there is more in the nest and they didn’t survive. We are grateful to get the ones that did survive and they are all doing very well.”

Belvedere said the bird’s food source is difficult to find during extreme heat waves.

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“Because the lake temperatures are so hot, the fish have gone much deeper down, and the ospreys and eagles have not been able to get food to bring back to the nest, so they were starving,” she said.

FortisBC was involved with some of the heat-related raptor rescues.

The power company operates the Osprey Management Program to keep ospreys from nesting on live power poles, which can pose a fire danger and damage equipment.

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“We take an active role in removing nests from our electricity infrastructure to safer nesting platforms to ensure the safety of the wildlife and our system,” the company said in a statement.

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Meanwhile, SORCO is scrambling to keep up with the care of so many rescued birds in a short period of time.

The rescue centre ran out of fish to feed the raptors but said the Okanagan Nation Alliance is generously donating 1,000 pounds of fish on Tuesday.

“We have never seen anything like this before. The issue with these young birds — we have eagles and hawks and the osprey — usually, we only get this heat in August, so they would have been two months older and known better how to care for themselves,” Belvedere said.

SORCO relies on public donations to operate, and more information on how to volunteer or donate can be found on its website. 

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