British Columbia

Baby owl in Kelowna killed by kindness of humans who fed it for weeks

An owl rehabilitation centre is urging people to avoid feeding wildlife, even if it seems hungry, after one chick was killed and another had to be rescued.

'You're doing more harm than good by feeding any wildlife,' says rehab centre manager

These three abandoned chicks were rescued by The South Okanagan Rehabilitation Center for Owls in May 2016 after its mother died. Dale Belvedere from the centre says when incidents like this happen, don't intervene. Call a rescue organization. (South Okanagan Rehabilitation Center for Owls)

A baby owl is dead and one of its siblings is in a rescue centre after humans were found to be feeding the birds for weeks.

The dead chick was electrocuted by a power line when it flew down to pick up food that had been put out for it.

"They felt the bird was hungry because it was squawking, and we found out this had been done for the past three weeks," said Dale Belvedere from the South Okanagan Rehabilitation Center for Owls.

The rescue centre received a call on Friday about an owl that was flying down and pecking at a resident's feet when they were in their backyard — abnormal behaviour for a chick, said Belvedere.

While a volunteer was enroute to the home, she says the centre received another similar report.

Belvedere says as it turned out, there were two owls who were siblings.

"We went to the first bird, and it flew right up to the volunteer, pecked its feet," said Belvedere. "It was able to pick it up and cradle it just like a baby — completely human imprinted."

Dale Belvedere, the manager of the South Okanagan Rehabilitation Center for Owls, is pictured at an event teaching the public about birds and wildlife. (South Okanagan Rehabilitation Center for Owls)

There had been "too much contact" between the birds and humans, she said.

When the volunteer arrived at the second home, the owl was unreachable because it had flown nearly 2.5 metres up into a tree.

They left after giving the resident instructions on what to do if it flew down again.

That evening, the owl was killed flying towards a dinner put out by someone else in the neighbourhood.

Don't feed wild animals

Belvedere is urging people to avoid feeding wild animals.

"You're doing more harm than good by feeding any wildlife," she said. "You hear of bears being euthanized. Humans have caused this."

In May, a bear cub was killed by conservation officers after a family in northeastern B.C. tried to rescue the cub by feeding it.

The rescued owl is now in an isolated pen outside the centre.

When it is fed, Belevedere says, she wears a suit and mask so the bird does not associate food with humans.

"We're hoping that eventually it will learn to get aggressive and reverse the damage that's been done, and we can release it."

She believes there was more than one person feeding the owls.

There is a third chick related to this incident, but she says it does not appear to have had as much human contact and should survive independently.