As a result of cooler temperatures and snow in southern Alberta over the weekend, a resident in Milk River had an unusual encounter with a winged predator in her carport.
When Rey Richards went to let her dogs in on Saturday night, she had quite the surprise — a great horn owl was taking shelter in her carport away from the wintery weather.
“An owl, pretty little thing but not overly friendly. I figured once I got the dogs in, it would leave,” said Richards.
Richards let the owl be for the night in hopes it would carry on, but when Sunday morning came around, the winged predator was still there.
A seasoned photographer, Richards — who doesn’t have much experience photographing wildlife — grabbed her camera to capture the rare encounter, but was unsure of what to do in the situation.
“Being that I’ve never been that close to an owl, I mean they’re usually up in a tree, not eight feet away from you,” she said
“It was a little surprising because you look at the size of them and when they open their wings, they have between a three to five feet of a wing span, so you’re kind of like ‘Oh, what do I do with you?'”
Richards was able to contact Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation in Coaldale, who gave her some advice on how to care for the owl until a staff member was able to pick it up on Sunday.
“The first thing to do is to call a wildlife rescue centre such as the Birds of Prey. As far as containing the bird, often a cardboard box in a dark, cool place, with air holes is a good thing to do. Wrapping them up in a blanket is not that helpful,” said Colin Weir, managing director with Alberta Birds of Prey.
The agency has received multiple calls so far about owls and other birds seeking shelter in unusual places.
“This time of year, when we get a sudden change in temperature, we always get an influx of calls from people here in southern Alberta because these birds are often having difficulty finding food because of the snow cover and cold that comes,” said Weir.
“Great horn owls are very, very common, especially through urban areas so places like Calgary and Lethbridge and all the rural areas in between. Quite often they live and nest in urban areas and sometimes when their seeking shelter they will fly into open buildings, garages and carports.”
If you do come across an owl or any other wildlife, you can call either Alberta Fish and Wildlife or the Alberta Birds of Prey for assistance throughout the off season.