The moment eight year old Gaelen Schnare saw his first owl, a two-year-old great horned owl named Don Quixote, he decided he was going to start a fundraiser to help Salmo resident and falconer Terry Swan earn her rehabilitation certification to rescue birds of prey.
Schnare finally reached his $1,000 goal at the end of August. He fundraised outside the Kootenay Co-op with classmates from the Wildflower school, plus Swan and Don Quixote, who helped draw quite a bit of attention to the cause. After Schnare held two yard sales he was only $24 away from his goal. He sold some of his “younger toys” to reach the $1,000 mark.
Schnare said he loves animals. His family has one cat and a dog but he said they used to have more pets including fish and a snake.
“When I was little, I called myself an animal caretaker. We used to have deer come into our yard and when I would go outside, they would keep eating the grass and just look at me.”
Swan is a licensed falconer who does a fair amount of bird rescue work. She helped collect Nel, the struggling osprey fledgling, from her nest with Nelson Hydro in June. She takes non-bird of prey like a song bird or a crow to Bird Emergency and Kare Society (BEAKS) in Castlegar as she said bringing them into her house “would give them a heart attack.” BEAKS in turn, does not take birds of prey.
“People know me as “ the bird nerd” so they bring injured birds to me. I can only, by law, do so much but I can stabilize them and I send them to the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) rehab centre in Vancouver.”
Once certified, she plans to do more at her home for birds of prey rather than have to send them away. The funds raised are paying for the 12 books specified by the international wildlife rehabilitation council who issues the certification. She estimates she’s about a quarter of the way through her course work.
“I can’t believe what Gaelen has done,” said Swan. “It’s floored me.”
Schnare wanted to help because “there are almost no birds of prey left. There is no rehabilitation for birds of prey here. When Tammy gets a bird, it has to go to OWL. It’s a lot of travel for the birds so she’s trying to get her rehabilitation licence.”
Schnare’s school, Wildflower, had started a fundraiser but he became highly motivated when Swan and Don Quixote visited his classroom in the spring. It was the first time he had ever seen an owl.
“I met her with the great horned owl so I got really inspired. It was really cool. You don’t see them all the time.”
Swan rescued the owl when it broke one wing as a fledgling flying into the side of a barn. Even though Don Quixote’s wing mended, the tendons were too badly scarred for him to fully recover.
OWL had nowhere for him to go so they told Swan the owl would be a perfect candidate for an education bird if she would take him. She now visits the schools with the owl and one of her Harris’ hawks.