One of the winter rescues at PRWC is a snowy owl that is currently recovering fairly well. The owl was found on November 22nd near Hwys 1 and 12, and given the injuries and the location, it was likely hit by a car. Unfortunately, this rescue is not the first snowy owl injured in a car accident. In 2012, the Centre rescued and released another snowy owl that was hit by a car near Stonewall, so hopefully this owl will be another success story. Whatever the cause of its injuries, it has a fractured right wing and shin, and it has been housed outdoors.
The snowy owl is now eating on its own, so hopefully if its injuries heal and it is healthy enough, it may be released in the spring, although perhaps not in time for the breeding season. The snowy owl was on the short list for the National Bird of Canada, and although it only took second place, they are truly unique, northern birds with a range across all of Canada, including the prairies. Due to the constant daylight in the Arctic during the breeding and nesting periods, they have adapted to their environment and are not actually nocturnal (Canadian Geographic). Snowy owls usually breed in February and March, and they also usually keep a breeding partner for life.
Even though snowy owls are commonly spotted in this area, in 2017 they were designated a “vulnerable” species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources for the UN), jumping from the least threatened category, “least concern.” Snowy owls are not currently considered at risk in Manitoba, but it is thought that recent reports on their populations have been overestimated.
Birdlife International indicates that the decline in population is likely due to normal threats, such as illegal hunting, and collisions with vehicles and power lines. More worryingly, climate change is likely an increasing threat, as the impact on snow melt and snow cover can impact hunting and the availability of prey, increasing the rate of decline (Birdlife.org). Hopefully, PWRC will be able to help rescue another one of these remarkable and beautiful birds and release it back to nature.
For more information or to become a PWRC member and subscribe to the newsletter, please visit the PWRC website: http://pwildlife.ca/.