Thanks to the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, MRWC has new lead testing equipment. This testing equipment will allow for more timely identification of birds with higher than normal lead in their system. The Centre will also be able to share these cases with researchers across Canada who are involved with research in lead toxicity issues in our wildlife.

This tiny Pygmy Owl is the smallest species of owls in Alberta. Smaller than a pop can, they weigh just 62-73g! This little guy arrived in early January through our first aid station in Drayton Valley. It was underweight at only 47g and was suffering from a fractured humerus. The weather was extremely bad, making travel difficult and our staffing was limited, so the decision was made to have it begin its recovery in the capable hands of our first aid station.

A few days of one-on-one special care and our little owl had gained weight and was ready to travel. Our new little 60g patient is eating a mouse per day, exercising in its enclosure and will hopefully be released in spring.

Story by Judy Boyd

On Oct 8, 2013 one of our volunteers went out to the Edberg area to check on an owl that had been caught on barbed wire. We were all really excited when we realized that this was a Barn Owl, the first one to ever be treated at Medicine River!

To our knowledge, there has only been one other Barn Owl that was brought to a rehab centre in Alberta and that was a DOA (dead on arrival) case that came into the Birds of Prey Centre in Coaldale. According to Alberta's Status Biologist, Dr. Gordon Court, this is only the third offical recording of a Barn Owl in Alberta. At least a decade ago, someone phoned into the Kerry Wood Nature Centre and described a Barn Owl. This sighting was never followed up on, but a few years ago, a report came in of a Barn Owl in the Rimbey area. I never saw the bird but I saw pictures and it definitely was one.

Being our first, we are learning all kinds of new things about this species of owl. My first impression was amazement at how small it is. It came in weighing 370 grams. Sibley's Guide gives the average weight of a barn owl as 460 grams. So this guy is underweight and we treated him for that. Actually I don't know what sex it is. Both males and females weigh the same amount.

I've always found that different species of owls react differently to rehab. Snowy Owls always bite. Great Gray Owls always clench their beak shut so in order to get any medicine down their throats you have to pry their beak open. If you have a Great Horned Owl with attitude, you have a female. The males are much more mellow. This Barn Owl tended to hold any medicine or fluids in its throat and wouldn't swallow. Because we've only dealt with the one, we don't know if this is typically when rehabbing this species.

EDITOR"S NOTE: Unfortunately, we were not able to save this owl. The severe emaciation was too far progressed for us to stop it. We did earn a lot from it's short stay with us and enjoyed the rare chance to be so close to this amazing bird.

IMG 8361On January 5, 2014, MRWC staff faced a new challenge. An unusual build-up of snow, high winds and a fallen tree all added up to cause one quarter of the eagle enclosure roof to collapse, killing two eagles, injuring one and leaving us with the reality that we will have to raise the funds for a new enclosure. 

We are happy to report that the one injured eagle did make a full recovery! After staff dug him out of the snow and lumber when only his foot was exposed, he is lucky to be doing so well. He has no broken bones and was only suffering from shock and cold. The other five eagles in the enclosure were not affected and have been moved into the north side of the cage which has been deemed stable.

A re-build the eagle cage fund has been set up and a plan is being formulated for a new and improved structure. If you would like to contribute, please mark your cheque donation as "eagle cage fund". You can also donate by clicking here and select this project in the donation allocation drop-down box.


Staffing in our hospital saw some changes this fall. Adam Finch has gone back to his home in England and we have changed to a job sharing position in the hospital. The job is very demanding and we feel it will run more smoothly with two people sharing the responsibilities. Two local residents have come forward to take the position. We would like to welcome Kathy Taylor and Cameron Jenkins to the team!

We are happy to report that MRWC is moving with the times and has started a monthly e-newsletter!

A huge thank you goes out to NOVA Chemicals for their sponsorship of "Tangled in Trash", the second book in the Otis the Owl's children's series!

Imperial Oil contributes $150,000 towards the project!