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Captain Canada: Great horned owl tangled in flag

Great horned owl

The nail-biting tale of Powell River’s own Caped Crusader, as told by Merrilee Prior

I had just come in from rescuing a hermit thrush on Thursday morning around 8:15 (I like hermits a lot!) and was getting it settled when the phone rang again. “There is an owl tangled in a Canada flag and it is up in a tree!” So, I harrumphed about barred owls, loaded up a kennel and went down to the north harbour.

It was a great horned owl! And it was definitely wrapped in the flag 30 ft. up a big fir tree, out on a limb. First a dozen crows, then a pair of ravens and another couple of herons were seriously harassing the owl, but he was going nowhere.

At this point, Julie and Rheal came along and Julie decided to distract the ravens: she went home and came back with some kibble and whistled. The ravens came to her for treats.

Sandy and I were discussing how to get the owl down, and I finally decided to run up to the fire hall and beg, when a city truck went by. I chased after it and asked if the city has a bucket truck and explained. They told me to go to city hall and ask them to send it out. The city hall employees were fantastic! They made a phone call and told me to go back and the truck would be there in 15 minutes.

And it was! Jason and Mike looked and decided how to get up, Clyde Burton was there to help instruct them on what to do and Michelle Pennell, our photographer, was recording all of it.

They carefully manoeuvred the bucket into place, Jason started to reach out and doh! the stoopid owl flew away across the harbour! Captain Canada takes to the air! He landed on the middle of the breakwater, then moved down to the outside, where we could not get to him from the shore. No obstacle to determined women! Michelle went home to get her husband with the boat.

Barry and Clyde went out, Clyde clambered up the breakwater and reached over and doh! the stoopid owl flew away again!

This time it came back to the parking lot and was in a low tree. By now, Jenny, from the wharfinger’s office, had joined the hunt. Captain Canada felt too exposed where he was and headed over to a tall cedar, near where I had first seen him. The ravens and herons were back. Again the owl felt exposed and flew back to the fir tree he had been in originally.

I was in luck! the flag got stuck on the branch and the owl was dangling upside down. He flapped himself back into an upright position on the branch, but was now going nowhere. We stood around discussing possibilities. He was now at least 50 ft. up the tree and the bucket wouldn’t reach. Jenny spoke up and said she was calling the fire department.

In the end, we had the ladder truck and a full crew. This time Merrilee talked the firefighter who was going up the ladder through what he would need to remember. He listened carefully and followed the directions without a flaw. Down came Max and the owl and, the hand-over complete, Max took his trophy – Captain Canada was de-flagged!

A quick call to OWL after the great horned beast arrived at our facility around 12:15 confirmed that the best course of action was to feed him some mice and throw him out at sunset. When this was done, the saga of Powell River’s caped crusader ended.

A huge thank-you to everyone involved. As hokey as it sounds, it really does take a a community to support us!

See the video story by our amazing photographer and volunteer, Michelle Pennell: