Raptor centre loses the right to rehab
There was a time when Pacific Northwest Raptors rehabilitated about 80 injured birds of prey each year.
Those days are, apparently, over.
Cowichan’s facility for falcons, hawks, eagles and more lost its permit to assist injured birds of prey last year.
And it recently lost an appeal with the Environment Appeal Board.
“It’s incredibly discouraging and disheartening,” admitted PNWR director Gillian Radcliffe.
“For many years people have been bringing us injured birds, and calling us about injured birds — raptors specifically, because obviously that’s where we’re fairly specialized — and for about eight years we’ve been working toward a rehabilitation permit.”
Instead, year after year the Ministry of Environment would grant the facility a short-term permit, allowing staff to assist injured birds for no longer than two weeks before releasing them, or bringing them to a designated wildlife rehabilitation centre.
“It’s frustrating,” Radcliffe said. “We have qualified biologists and (rehabilitation) is a big part of who we are and what we do.”
She was quick to point out the facility is still focused on its number-one priority — education — and has plenty of initiatives on the go at the moment.
Some of the raptors are currently at the Vancouver Aquarium for demonstrations, while others are at the Winnipeg landfill, scouring the skies for lesser birds.
And of course, the raptor centre on Herd Road is open to the public.
Still, Radcliffe said rehab work was a way the facility supported the community, and in fact her staff was often called by agencies such as the RCMP and SPCA to assist wounded birds.
The Environmental Appeal Board decision explained the temporary permits were based “on a long-standing policy not to issue permits for both rehabilitation and commercial breeding simultaneously.”
As PNWR is a commercial operation that includes breeding, the ministry’s policy “addressed concerns about the risk of conflict of interest between the two activities.”
The decision also notes that PNWR had occasionally kept injured birds at the facility for more than the two-week allotment.
But Radcliffe said that was never a secret.
Often, at the advice of a veterinarian, the centre would keep birds a few extra days, but Radcliffe said the ministry was always informed of this activity.
Extenuating circumstances also played a role.
“For example, we had a group of about 13 that we kept longer because we had all that snow and ice in 2008,” Radcliffe said.
But again, the ministry was informed of this delay in transporting the birds to a designated facility.
“It’s been an uphill battle the whole way — it’s very frustrating,” said Radcliffe.
But she’s not giving up.
“We’re hoping to have more meetings and discussions with (the ministry).”
Who to contact about a raptor in distress:
• North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington at 250-248-8534.
• SPCA Wild Arc in Victoria at 250-478-9453.
• Island Wildlife Natural Care on Salt Spring Island at 250-537-0777.
• Conservation Service at 1-877-952-7277.