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Merville’s MARS Hospital dealing with influx of owls

By Jane Sproull Thomson
A recently rescued northern saw whet owl gets ready for its physical exam. Photo by Gyl Anderson

By Jane Sproull Thomson

Special to Black Press

Some rescuers ensured a happy ending for a gull entangled in fishing- line hanging from a lamp post last week. Attempting to fly away, it was repeatedly jerked back by the line wrapped around one foot. One of the concerned observers noticed a nearby Telus boom truck and tracked the driver down to a nearby coffee shop. Within a few minutes the boom was up, the gull freed and brought to the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) Hospital in Merville, where the line was removed and the gull given pain meds for its swollen foot. It is now flying free once more.

Influx of owls

Did you know that Parliament resumes this month? No, I don’t mean in Ottawa!

A gathering of owls is called a ‘parliament,’ and that is what is happening at MARS just now. Unfortunately rather than a sign of democracy in action, this parliament indicates trouble in paradise.

MARS Hospital has treated several owls already this fall, and a barred owl and a northern saw whet are still recovering from collisions with vehicles. As I’ve mentioned before, this time of year many people travel to work and back home in the semi-dark of dawn and dusk, which is prime hunting time for owls. The problem is compounded when food waste is tossed into the ditch, attracting owl prey like mice and rats. Owl eyes are fixed and don’t offer peripheral vision, and owls fly low when attacking prey. In other words, owls don’t see approaching cars on the road, they only see dinner beckoning. We can help by saving the apple core and burger buns for the home compost, and by slowing down and being aware of nearby animals during those low-light hours.

Owls and other birds often get tangled up in garden netting. If you have to use netting, avoid plastic which can cause terrible injuries, and install it carefully to avoid entanglements. Check it frequently for trapped wildlife.

MARS is open for tours

Looking for something interesting to do with the grandkids this weekend? Book a tour of the newly-reopened MARS Wildlife Rescue Visitor Centre and meet our ambassador birds. Our volunteers have been busy during the COVID closings, planting new native gardens, creating trails and new exhibits. Our gift shop has some terrific stocking stuffers to give you a leg up on your local holiday buying. Hours are available Friday, Saturday and Sunday with admission by donation. Please book online in advance, at