Homeschoolers get a visit from Quinn the barred owl

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, April 5 2016

Quinn the barred owl made a special trip to Gabriola Friday morning from the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association (NIWRA) to visit Gabriola’s homeschooled children. The centre is a world class wildlife rehabilitation facility specializing in raptors (birds of prey that capture food with their talons) and black bears. Ross Peterson, a retired biologist and Coordinator of the Schools Education Program brought Quinn with Gini Eder, another NIWRA volunteer and retired teacher, who lives on Gabriola. “We go to the three school districts and occasionally up island,” Peterson says.

Ross Peterson and Gini Eder from the North Island Recovery Association at the HOPE Centre during their presentation to Gabriola’s homeschooled children. Jane Reddington photo

Roughly 17 homeschoolers between the ages of three and 12 gathered to watch the presentation with Quinn, a four year old owl, who has a wing injury that prevents him from being returned to the wild. Peterson says most owls like Quinn are injured in collisions with cars. 

“Most smaller animals people bring everyday in a shoebox. We might get 400 to 600 a year,” and approximately 50 owls.

Quinn’s wing injury means he’s not well enough to survive on his own after being analyzed by the centre’s manager and veterinarian. “Quinn has little stress and a medical plan so he might live for 12 to 14 years.” Training Quinn for the education program took several months and Quinn is a peaceful creature, content to be on view for the children for 45 minutes, barely turning his head, which contrary to popular belief he can turn 370 degrees in either direction. 

Quinn also boasts 3D hearing and hallow bones like an Aero chocolate bar that bring his total weight to under one pound.

“Our primary purpose,” says Peterson, “is to rehabilitate orphaned animals and release them. Our second goal is to provide wildlife education and stewardship information to the public.”

All these owls come with a lesson, Peterson tells me. “The reason why they are here is because they come from injuries mankind has inflicted. We have a passion for correcting that wrong.” The children learn how even throwing an apple core out the car window can put owls like Quinn at risk. Food attracts mice and rats and this is what an owl hunts. Apparently bubble gum is the worst offender.

For more information about the Gabriola Homeschoolers and Unschoolers, which has been operation on Gabriola for a dozen years, please contact Christy Wilson by email at whimsygal@shaw.ca or find their page on Facebook. 

Wilson organized this event and the children were also allowed to dissect owl pellets regurgitated by the owls after swallowing their prey, like a rat, whole.