Voiceover

'Here's where the great grey owls were, but they're all dead'

STEPHEN LEAHY September 30 2002
Voiceover

'Here's where the great grey owls were, but they're all dead'

STEPHEN LEAHY September 30 2002

'Here's where the great grey owls were, but they're all dead'

Voiceover

STEPHEN LEAHY

Kay McKeever has made owls her passion and life’s work. Some 5,000 injured birds from across North America have made their way to her Owl Foundation in Vineland, on Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, since she and her husband founded it 34 years ago. There, they are healed for return to the wild or for breeding if they’re unable to survive on their own. This summer, disaster struck in the form of the West Nile virus.

We had 240 owls earlier this year. Last month, we lost all of our northern owls-the great greys, boreals, snowys and northern hawk owls. We lost all our breeding pairs74 adults and offspring. It’s heartbreaking.

To really understand this you have to know something about owls. It takes between five and seven years before our great greys will mate, if they will mate at all. They are not numerous in the wild, and we do not get many. We’re the only place in North America that can breed great greys.

Our first grey came in 1977, and he was still breeding this year. This spring was the zenith of those 34 years where we actually had five great greys breeding and two more pairs bonding. We started building a 4,000sq.-ft. release training cage last November.

It has 100-ft.-long flight lanes and was designed to train young great greys over this winter so they could be released into

their natural habitat in the boreal forest next spring.

We were going to break open a bottle of champagne to celebrate when it was finished this August. We had 10 young great greys to put in there, but they all died. It would have been a sight to see them flying in there. Dreams come and dreams go.

This year was the most successful breeding we’ve had in 34 years and a little thing like the West Nile virus comes and wipes it all out. I’m 77. It’s not likely that in my lifetime we will breed great greys again. But it doesn’t really matter. We know how to do breeding properly. It only matters that the Foundation keeps on going.