Each year, OWL receives young raptors into care due to a variety of circumstances. Some arrive into care after high winds that may have destroyed a nest, which can result in the babies having broken bones that require intervention to heal; others are grabbed by a predator and dropped and a few come in with an overload of parasites and are unable to survive without care. Other times a healthy baby is found on the ground and picked up by a Good Samaritan, but it is unknown where the nest is located to reunite them with their parents or it is in a dangerous location. Sibling rivalry is also something that happens in the wild. If there is a large clutch of young, the weakest may get shoved out.
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. 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.
Sadly, we also see cases where well intentioned members of the public try to raise wildlife on their own. When raised on an improper diet and surroundings, serious injury can occur to the young animal, such as imprinting to humans, 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! Please call your local wildlife rehabilitator for help.
Lack of suitable habitat exacerbates the circumstances why we receive so many young. 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. Living so close to urban areas poses other risks to both the babies and the parents trying to raise them. These can include rat poison, cars, power lines, windows, and increased competition from others of the same or different species. 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.
How do we raise them?
At OWL, we use our permanent resident raptors as foster parents! Our ambassadors are non-releasable due to permanent injuries and cannot be released into the wild. They not only help us with educating the public, but they also act as surrogate parents to the orphans we get in each year. Our foster parents raptors raise the orphans as their own and teach them how to fear humans, how to communicate, and some even teach the babies hunting skills! 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 comes to recognize another as their parent. The animal ends up establishing behaviours and attraction to the species they had imprinted on. An imprinted animal unfortunately cannot be released to the wild due to their lack of proper survival skills.
How can you help?
Please help us preserve wildlife habitat by reporting active nesting trees to your local Ministry of Environment biologist 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.