Oliver resident Donald Lawlor had come to know the Great Horned owl family living in a tree near his home before he witnessed the death of two fledglings when they were electrocuted after flying into a power line.
“I was heartbroken. Many of the people who watched them also felt the same way. They felt so bad many of them were crying,” he said of the incident that took place in May.
The young owls were learning to fly with their mother on the lines, where they often perched, when it occurred.
On Wednesday, FortisBC crews were out covering the exposed lines that took the young owls’ lives.
“If we know that there’s a risk to wildlife on our lines, we will take precautions to fix it,” said Nicole Brown, communications advisor with FortisBC. “What we are doing on an ongoing basis is adding bird proofing and protection on our system.”
She said the electricity and natural gas distribution utility company was unaware the owls were at risk and could not do anything about it until it was too late.
Much of the risks to wildlife come from the “legacy structures” on the system put in place before environmental risks were considered, like the one in Oliver, Brown said, which the company is in the process of replacing.
To prevent more wildlife tragedies, residents are advised to get in touch with FortisBC if they believe a line is a threat to wildlife. Brown said the procedure is costly, something customers would have to pay for, and is based on the risk to wildlife.
“We cover everything where there is a known risk. People will see cone shapes over some of our structures, they’ll see spirals on some of our structures. People may not realize how much wildlife protection is already in place.”
Roxanne Tripp, FortisBC environmental program lead, said the company operates on a risk-based approach.
“We need to know where those risks are,” she said, adding the incident was heartbreaking to her because as a biologist she specialized in owls.
“Every time somebody sees something that they have concerns about — if they see potential for a long-term interaction with the infrastructure — feel free to pick up the phone or send us an email.”