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Large number of owls being cared for at Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Dr. Kathleen MacAulay, a volunteer with the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, examines a barred owl who was struck by a car. The centre is currently caring for several owls who were hit by vehicles.
Dr. Kathleen MacAulay, a volunteer with the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, examines a barred owl who was struck by a car. The centre is currently caring for several owls who were hit by vehicles. - Lynn Curwin

HILDEN, N.S.

A piece of litter on a roadway could result in injury or death for an owl. Litter attracts rodents, and owls hunt rodents, which are easy to spot on open roads.

Litter could be one of the reasons Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (CWRC) has seen a lot of owls, especially barred owls, coming in after being hit by vehicles recently. Five barred owls, and two great horned owls, are currently receiving treatment at the centre. All were hit by vehicles.

The CWRC also serves as a permanent home for a barred owl whose encounter with a vehicle resulted in injuries that make it impossible to survive in the wild.

“It’s hard to say if there are more barred owls or if we’re just seeing them more often,” said Brenda Boates, a wildlife rehabilitator at the CWRC. “We could be seeing more because there are more roads and less habitat, because of distracted driving, because of the amount of trash along the roads…”

Owls prefer to hunt in open areas. They will swoop and grab prey and continue flying, sometimes into the path of traffic. Raptors will also eat road kill, on roads or along the shoulder.

“Some people focus straight ahead while driving, but it’s important to look around, and if you see movement on the shoulder, slow down,” said Boates. “The fall time change puts dusk right into the rush hour and owls begin most of their hunting at dusk.”

She noted that owl numbers might be up a bit this year because of the good hunting situation last winter. Because there wasn’t much snow, prey couldn’t hide as well.

Owls usually require care for several weeks, and sometimes months, after being hit by a vehicle.

lynn.curwin@trurodaily.com

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