Gerry Powers: Owl champion of Abbotsford
Did you know that the owls of the Fraser Valley have a full time, volunteer owl savior? You may have seen his green truck driving along the highway between Abbotsford and Chilliwack in the early morning hours, or Gerry himself armed with a fishing net, rescuing an injured owl.
Gerry Powers started collecting birds from the side of Highway 1 over 20 years ago. Gerry and his wife Shirley drive the stretch of highway between Chilliwack and Abbotsford looking for dead or injured raptors, sometimes several times per week.
They record their findings and take injured raptors they have found to the Orphaned Wildlife Rescue Society (OWL) in Delta, where they are treated and rehabilitated to be released back into the Fraser Valley.
Gerry has kept meticulous notes on every bird he has come across in his rescue work, all in well labeled binders stacked around his home office. Now, his work as a citizen scientist is helping FVC biologist Sofi with her research. Sofi is using the past 21 years of Gerry’s records to look into where the most barn owls die along Highway 1 and the possible reasons why.
Raptors, such as hawks, eagles, and owls, like to hunt along our highways. The open stretches of grasses are home to mice and voles, and the utility poles make excellent hunting perches. Unfortunately, cars traveling quickly along the highway can hit the birds as they fly low to find and catch their prey.
With many years of experience rescuing injured birds, Gerry is the go-to guy for owl rescue in the Fraser Valley. He takes 24-7, from all over the Lower Mainland, about dead and injured raptors.
Gerry wasn’t entirely sure how he started recording road mortality along the highways, but it was likely a natural progression from his rescue work across the Fraser Valley. Gerry has helped release around 400 of his rescued raptors, including 172 barn owls and 67 barred owls.
His work is making a real impact, not just for the owls he rescues but also for the owl population as a whole. The data he has collected is helping Sofi with her research. Road mortality is one of the biggest threats to owls, along with habitat loss and the use of rodent poisons.