Dale Belvedere, manager of the South Okanagan Raptor Rehab Centre, chats with Houdini, their resident great horned owl. The B.C. SPCA is hoping to set up their own rehab centre to help a wider range of animals in the Central Okanagan. (Steve Kidd – Black Press)

BC SPCA looking at Okanagan for wildlife rehab centre

Community support is needed to get the project going

The B.C. SPCA says there is a need for a wildlife rehabilitation centre in the Okanagan, and it would love to build one.

What’s needed to make it happen, according to Dr. Sara Dubois, chief scientific officer for the B.C. SPCA, is community support.

“We know the need is there, but the community is going to have to come forward (and support it),” said Dubois.

In the South Okanagan, the SORCO Raptor Rehab Centre takes care of injured owls, eagles, hawks and other birds of prey. To the north, the Kamloops Wildlife Park Society operates a wildlife rehabilitation centre as part of its facility. The SPCA has a facility near Victoria, the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre.

But in the Central Okanagan, there is no specialized help for injured animals and wildlife needing extended treatment and they need to be transported a distance for help.

“Our Kelowna branch is frequently called out for rescues as well, as animals show up at the clinics in need of care,” said Dubois.

“That’s mammals and birds and reptiles and amphibians. Those animals right now don’t have a place to go locally. So there’s a patchwork of things that are happening. And there are some things that are not in the best interest of the animals; people try to take these animals home and care for them.”

Dale Belvedere, SORCO manager, said that was a particular problem a couple of years ago when SORCO had to take in 44 great horned owl babies people had found out of their nests and thought they were in distress.

“People kept seeing these babies on the ground and picking them up,” said Belvedere, explaining the birds would likely have found their way back to the nest by themselves. Rather than interfering, she said people should have called SORCO to report the problem.

Belvedere said SORCO support establishing an SPCA rehab centre, but both she and Dubois agree it would take years to accomplish.

Read more: Give a hoot and don’t touch baby birds

SORCO specializes in raptors, but Dubois said a facility such as the one proposed could extend that care to a wide range of wildlife.

If there was a dedicated resource facility, there would be expert staff able to go out and deal with problems directly, from injured animals to reuniting baby birds with their nest mates.

Setting up such a facility would come with a cost. There would be costs for obtaining land, Dubois said, as well as building a facility or modifying existing buildings as needed. Then there would be ongoing costs for operating a facility.

“Our current facility takes in 3,000 animals a year and it costs about $850,000 to operate,” said Dubois.

Starting out, an Okanagan facility would plan on taking in about half that number.

“Even taking in 1,500 animals a year, it’s going to be close to half a million dollars in operating costs,” she said.

Read more: Owls being treated for suspected Warfarin poisoning

Dubois said people may not understand that while overall conservation of wild animals is a government responsibility, when it comes to individual animals, “no one’s paying for their care.”

She said support needs to come from the business community and local governments, as well as the people.

“There could be a lot of good corporate sponsorships,” said Dubois, adding the SPCA has had conversations with business owners.

“The community of the Okanagan would really thrive and could show they are a compassionate community that wants to take care with wildlife.

“The residents of the Okanagan deserve to have something like this for their wildlife. We know they care,” she added.


Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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