South Okanagan turns out en masse to see the owls

The South Okanagan apparently does give a hoot about its birds of prey.

More than 2,000 people turned up Sunday for the South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owl’s (SORCO) 29th annual open house — and a chance to meet some of its star guests and residents.

“Amazing — it’s way over last year,” was how manager Dale Belvedere described attendance at the event. “We haven’t got the final figures yet of what we raised, but I’m sure it’s going to be pretty darned good.

“Our resident great horned owl, Houdini, was out and we introduced our new resident, which is a western screech.”

The one-year-old screech, she added, is unreleasable.

“This was her first time in public.”

The annual event is the centre’s biggest fundraiser. An admission fee wasn’t required, but visitors were asked to provide a donation, both to visit the facility and for the barbecue lunch.

“It was a constant flow. The barbecue got a little busy but people didn’t seem to mind just waiting in line for a few minutes,” said Dale.

“That money is used for the full year of caring for all the birds that we get. So it’s really important to us.”

The centre last year brought in 130 birds last year — including 40 Great Horned chicks scooped up by worried hikers.

“Our release rate is actually very, very good,” said Dale.  “All of the chicks were released and of the other 90, I would say a good 60 were released.”

The raptors — including owls, eagles, hawks and osprey — come to the centre after surviving mishaps with cars, vehicles and windows — and human curiosity and compassion.

The 40 horned owl chicks, for example, were delivered by worried passersby from a Penticton park after they were found on the ground.

Dale suggests the chicks be left alone.

“If they’re on the ground, they’re not hurt,” she explained. “Mom and Dad are nearby and will take care of them.”

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