Families and friends who ventured out to the Central Westcoast Forest Society speaker series at the Ucluelet Community Centre had a hoot of a time.
The topic of the night was wildlife rescue and rehabilitation and the stars were two rescued screech owls named Odis Jr. and Sawyer.
Biologist and president of the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) Warren Warttig entertained the audience with stories of his work in wildlife rescue on Vancouver Island.
“The most terrifying moment of my life was tube feeding a baby hummingbird,” Warttig said.
At the end of his talk, children were allowed to have their photo taken with Odis and Sawyer.
In addition to getting up close and personal with the live owls, Warttig also brought along a preserved pigmy owl, great horned owl, and snowy owl from MARS headquarters in Courtenay to show the audience.
Since opening its doors in 1995, the wildlife rehabilitation centre has released over 1926 animals back into the wild including 56 bald eagles, according to their 2014 Annual Report which can be found by visiting www.wingtips.org.
“Every time I see a bald eagle, I can’t help but wonder if it was one of the eagles, or offspring of one of the eagles we rehabilitated,” Warttig wrote in the report.
With massive fundraising efforts and support from the Province of B.C., MARS was able to purchase 4.4 hectares in the Port Hardy / Port Campbell region with plans to build a larger wildlife hospital and flight pen by May 2017.
“Eagles need a 125-feet by 50-feet wide flight pen for proper conditioning before release,” Warttig said.
As it stands, eagles brought in and rehabilitated at the MARS centre need to be transferred to other centres with bigger flight pens.
The new flight cage involves a concrete foundation filled with gravel and a post and beam structure with an open net roof, which allows the rain to pass through so that the birds are weathered.
The next speaker series the Central Westcoast Forest Society (CWFS) has booked will take place in March and will feature a group of individuals that have been working to protect Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park from logging.
“Locals should go to the speaker series to learn about science and to learn about where they live and what’s going on,” said CWFS environmental technician and project manager Tom Balfour.
“The best thing to do is follow Instagram or Facebook….We do events, like tree planting. Keep an eye out there. The office is in the Moorage building and people are welcome to come by and say, ‘Hi,’ anytime.”