British Columbia

Kestrel chicks saved from B.C. wildfire released back into the wild

The falcons were found inside a scorched power pole in July, days after the Elephant Hill fire broke out.

Falcons were found inside a burned-out power pole in July

The kestrels just before their release on Friday. (BC Hydro)

Two falcon chicks which were rescued after riding out one of B.C.'s biggest wildfires inside a power pole have been released back into the wild. 

BC Hydro crews spotted the kestrels in their cavity nest in the Ashcroft area on July 12, five days after the Elephant Hill fire broke out.

They were about to clear a burned power pole when they realized it wasn't empty.

"To their amazement, they found that there was a cavity nest in that pole and two beautiful little kestrel chicks, still alive," said BC Hydro's Dag Sharman.

"Everything around them had been burned, including the pole they were in, and trees and grass. It was blackened all around them. Somehow, these little birds survived that fire."

The kestrels inside their cavity nest, as crews found them on July 12. (BC Hydro)

The American kestrels were rescued and taken to the BC Wildlife Park's centre in Kamloops.

Adrienne Clay, an animal care supervisor, said the chicks were in rough shape but still "pretty lucky" to have survived.

One of two kestrel chicks rescued by BC Hydro workers in Ashcroft and recovering at the Wildlife Health Centre in Kamloops. (BC Hydro)

The falcons were released on Friday after more than two months of rehabilitation. They were set free near Pritchard, about 130 kilometres East of Ashcroft, because their old habitat is still scorched.

Sharman tipped his hat to the team at the rehabilitation centre, calling it "fantastic."

He added that the crew that found the chicks has followed their progress all summer.

"They're very relieved and excited to see the birds are now back to living as they should in the wild."

American kestrels are the smallest falcons found in North America. They range from Northern B.C. to South America.

The Elephant Hill wildfire, one of the biggest of B.C.'s fire season, burned for 76 days. It destroyed at least 120 buildings and forced more than 50,000 people from their homes.