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AltaLink and the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation release rehabilitated raptors

“Be safe!” Those are the words that Johanne Picard-Thompson, AltaLink’s senior vice president of corporate services said when releasing an adorable short-eared owl back into its natural habitat.

The release was one of five raptor (birds of prey) releases that AltaLink participated in with the Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation at Cottonwood Park in Lethbridge, overlooking the Oldman River Valley. Two of the birds were rescued by AltaLink employees over the last couple of years – a great horned owl and a red-tailed hawk.

The great horned owl was rescued in 2018 by Chad Hauck, substation technologist, after discovering the owl on the side of the road. It’s suspected that the owl was hit by a car, and suffered a concussion and many broken feathers.

The red-tailed hawk was rescued just over a year ago at an AltaLink substation by Chris McDiarmid and Steve Boux from AltaLink’s south substations team, who worked with Aaron Anderson, environmental advisor, to make sure it went to the right place for recovery.

“It was a rewarding experience to come full circle and be able to release the rehabilitated red-tailed hawk that we rescued last year,” said Anderson.

Luckily, through AltaLink’s Avian Protection Plan, employees know what to if and when they see birds in need.

“AltaLink was the first Canadian utility to develop an Avian Protection Plan designed to reduce the impact transmission facilities can have on birds,” said Nikki Heck, environmental advisor. “The plan includes set standards and processes that allow our environment and field teams to work quickly when an injured bird is found to ensure it receives the proper care it needs.”

By following the right processes and getting the birds the rehabilitation they need, they are given the chance to soar again. 

“It’s really nice to see them back in the wild,” said Picard-Thompson. “We have worked closely with the Birds of Prey Centre for many years and we have seen the great work that they do and their dedication to the rehabilitation and conservation of Alberta’s birds. It’s very rewarding, especially when AltaLink employees played an important role in rescuing some of them.”

AltaLink has been a long-time supporter of the centre, including helping them build a new 650-foot walking trail around the wetland. Called the AltaLink Shoreline Trail, this trail connects the thousands of visitors that come to the centre every year with the many forms of wildlife that are found on or near the water.

“We are so grateful to have AltaLink as a generous supporter of our facility,” said Colin Weir, managing director, Alberta Birds of Prey Foundation. “Since AltaLink employees often rescue birds they encounter during their work travels across Alberta, what better way to show our appreciation than by inviting them to release the birds they saved themselves. AltaLink’s thoughtful support for our environmental work is more appreciated than ever, especially during these most challenging times.”

The Birds of Prey Centre is now closed for the season but will continue to accept injured birds throughout the year.