January 18, 2009
At What Cost?
So, part of our typical weekend will involve a visit to our local "Wild Birds Unlimited" store in Etobicoke. We've become pretty good friends with the couple who own and operate the store. They provide a board for all customers to share their bird sightings of the month.
This bird of prey, photographed here, *****please note, the pictures attached, I borrowed from the internet, and were not taken by this photographer I found in the Orillia report from 2006 mentioned below***** was on the list and it is a rare Northern Hawk Owl.
I asked our friends, Jim and Linda, about this sighting, and if they knew more. What they shared, if true, shocks and disgusts me. I know Jim and Linda certainly wouldn't lie to me but who knows about the original teller of this tale. Even if there is some fibbing involved with this particular tale, there is truth in the story as a whole from the past, the present and most likely the future too. It seems this Northern Hawk Owl was hit by a car and word is, a photographer, was attempting to lure this Owl out into the open with feeder mice purchased from a local pet store.
It seems, since this is such a rare bird, from much further north of here, and it happens to migrate south in the winter for food... when one has been spotted, bird watchers flock to the area in hopes to see it. Most want to get pictures and some would pay money for the photo too. Word in the store was $5,000. I've done a slight bit of research this evening and it would seem $250 or a good bottle of wine was also on the list depending on the shot or species but the Northern Hawk Owl wasn't on this list I found.
Also, in my little bit of internet research this evening, I have found other reports of people baiting mice to lure Owls out into the open in hopes of getting a good picture AND it's happened more than just this one time where a car has come along and run the Owl over on a dirt road during his feast. I found a report of the same bird, in the same town of Orillia from almost 3 years ago, with the same demise. This site also included a bit of a war of words on a message board between the photographer and some others. The photographer admitted to using bait and not only this time either. He didn't admit to what had happened being his fault though. I found similar reports of other birds of prey also reported being run over due to feeder mice being tossed out into an open space, like a dirt road, from some ignorant photographer.
I have learned this species of Owl apparently is not too shy of humans... which can be a downfall (as you can see). I wondered for a moment on why the bait was used, especially on an Owl who didn't fear humans; I am guessing in a forested area you can't get that prize picture (cha-ching$$$). So, a self-claimed bird lover/photographer is either not using common sense or really isn't the bird lover he/she claims to be.
I know there are laws to protect the animals but I don't know if I could wait for a Forest Ranger or whoever to come along and deal with the situation. Rumors of the latest is that they are hoping someone else out trying to snap pics of the Owl, took some in his fallen position, with the mouse still in his clutches. If it's a wild brown field mouse, then they cannot blame anyone. If it's one of them pet store white mice, then they have more to work with.
What a ridiculous and sad ending to the life of such a beautiful graceful winged creature...