Death of two owls a ‘rare incident,’ Fortis says

Donald Lawlor took this photo of Happy and Hoppy's last day, moments before they took their first flight to a nearby electrical pole that killed both in an electrical explosion.

It’s a “rare incident,” Fortis BC insists, after two baby owl fledglings were electrocuted on a utility pole in Oliver late last month.

In a statement, the company said it’s committed to protecting the environment and wildlife from its systems within their operations area.

“While incidents like this are rare, when they do happen, they’re a concern to us as well,” a Fortis representative said in response to an article which appeared May 25 in The Okanagan Weekend.

“There remains some legacy structures, like this one, still to be updated.”

Fortis BC said it was made aware of the situation after it was reported by resident Donald Lawlor. He and his wife, Maria, witnessed the two baby owls die in an electrical explosion after one of the owl’s wings brushed an exposed wire.

The baby owls were on their first flight from the nest at the time.

“Our operations and environment teams have been working together to determine the best way to prevent this in the future,” said Fortis BC. “They are evaluating the best cover to place at this structure.”

Donald Lawlor said he and Maria watched the two Great Horned owls nest in a tree outside their apartment window and eventually have two babies.

“The fledglings stayed in the nest for maybe a couple of weeks, and then they started hopping around,” Mr. Lawlor said.

The couple even named each member of the family: parents Gretta and Bogart and babies Hoppy and Happy.

The owl family became a beloved spectacle to residents in their condo building, with many neighbours coming to the Lawlors’ unit to catch a better view.

But in the early hours of morning, the Lawlors were witnesses to the horrific sight of the babies’ deaths moments after successfully completing their first flight from the nest to a nearby electrical pole, where their mother awaited.

“One of their wings brushed the wire, and the other one was so close, so when the (explosion) was emitted, it killed both of them instantly,” explained Mr. Lawlor.

The mother was knocked off the pole and hit the ground, but survived. The bodies of her lifeless fledglings landed beside her.

“My wife and I had been watching them and she actually cried, as did some of the other neighbours here. To them, they were just little babies growing up,” Donald said.

Fortis BC appeared several hours later to restore power knocked out to several residences and part of the complex, picked up the dead owls, and left.

— Penticton Herald

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