Every year, OWL receives calls about young raptors who are found on the ground. They can find themselves out of the nest too early for many reasons, such as being grabbed by a predator and dropped, pushed out by a sibling or parent, blown out during a high wind, or the tree was cut down. In some situations we are able to successfully re-nest the young birds or get them higher up in tree to keep them safe from predators and domestic animals on the ground, but other times we make the decision to bring them into care, especially if they have received injuries or are thin, they are in a dangerous environment, such as on a road, in an active work yard, or in a dog park, the nest or parents are not able to be located, or the baby is found on the ground near a nest where one or both of the parents are known to be in our care or deceased. We also receive baby raptors from other rehabilitation facilities, as we are able to offer species specific care and rehabilitation and have a foster parent program to help raise the young with their own species.
Why do the young raptors come into our care?
Lack of suitable habitat effects all species from small owls to large eagles. With so many trees disappearing due to human encroachment, nesting trees around human developments and urban areas are often left less protected from predators and wind and the surrounding area becomes less safe for the baby raptors to grow up and learn to fly and hunt. Often times when they fall, they hit pavement or other hard surfaces injuring themselves instead of neighbouring tree branches or other vegetation that would have otherwise been there to break the fall or the baby raptor is finds itself in a dangerous environment, such as at a local dog parks or other trails and parks where they are often found by off leash dogs and many times are grabbed or on a busy road where it could be struck by a car.
Living so close to urban areas also poses other risks to both the babies and the parents trying to raise them. Rat poison is one huge concern. Not only could it weaken or kill one or both of the parents, but the babies could be fed a poisonous meal, which in turn could kill them as well. Other dangers include cars, power lines, windows, and competition from others of the same or different species due to the lack of suitable habitat. If one or both of the parents are injured or killed and the young are not receiving enough food from the remaining, they will often times jump from the nest in search of food.
Some cases also come in from well intentioned members of the public who try to raise wildlife instead of contacting a wildlife rehabilitator. When raised on an improper diet and surroundings, serious damage can occur to the young animal, such as growth deficiencies, brittle bones, and death. Please do not try to raise wildlife on your own; not only is it illegal, but you can permanently injure or kill what you are trying to help!
How do we prevent them from becoming too used to humans/imprinting?
At OWL, we have many species of raptors that live with us year round due to injuries that make them non-releasable. These raptors not only act as ambassadors for they species, they also have the important job of becoming surrogate parents to the young we get into care. The foster parents raise the orphans as their own and teach them how to fear humans, how to communicate, and even how to hunt! If we do not have a suitable foster parent, we use masks and other methods to prevent imprinting on humans.
What is imprinting?
Imprinting is when a young animal is around a species during their critical developmental time when they learn what they are. If an animal thinks it is a human, it may have some seriously altered behaviour and will not be able to survive in the wild. It would either go to humans for food and shelter or not be able to recognize danger and get attacked.
How can you help?
Please help us preserve wildlife habitat by reporting active nesting trees so that they won’t be removed or disturbed, plant native trees and shrubs to provide nesting areas, remove all rat poison or petition your local area to consider alternatives for rat control, and build and install various nesting boxes for the species in your local area.