It’s almost time to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Otis the owl, Medicine River Wildlife Centre’s 20-year-old feathered ambassador.
His birthday party is set for May 13, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the centre, located west of Innisfail near Spruce View.
Carol Kelly, the centre’s executive director, said the great horned owl is expected to live for 40 years or more so he is middle age, and looks great.
“They’re not like us. He’s not old,” laughed Kelly about how well wildlife age compared to people.
“They’ll live much shorter lives in a captive situation if they’re stressed and unhappy. But in his case, he’s very happy and loves to be around people,” Kelly said.
“Take him out to a school or an event, and he’s in his element.”
In the wild, his life expectancy would be about 12 to 15 years.
Activities at the birthday event include guided tours of the wildlife hospital, wagon rides to view the centre’s new raptor compound that is under construction, short presentations at the Learning Lodge, nature trail hikes, hot dogs and birthday cake, owl-shaped cookies, a raffle, face painting, crafts, and photos with the Otis.
Kelly said it’s the centre’s biggest in-person event since the pandemic.
“We wanted to celebrate Otis and show people what we’re doing. We’re a little bit off the beaten track and sometimes people forget. Come on out and have some fun.”
Otis the Owl’s 20th Birthday Party is a free event, but donations are appreciated. For more information visit www.medicineriverwildlifecentre.ca.
Kelly said the wildlife hospital could soon be busy caring for spring babies. So far they’ve seen some baby squirrels and had calls about a baby fox and coyote, but things could change quickly.
“The geese and ducks are on their eggs. The fawns and moose calves will be born starting mid-May.”
She said a baby goldfinch displaced by the Drayton Valley wildfire was brought to the centre, and about a week and a half ago there was a big grass fire about five km south of the wildlife centre in Red Deer County.
“The winds were not blowing towards us so that was good. But it was blowing towards a bunch of acreages.
“They had five fire departments, water bombers and bulldozers. They got it under control in one day. Everybody jumped on it.”
Kelly said so far most wildlife has been able to escape the flames.
“They know it’s coming. Anybody who can move, gets out of there, and anyone who cannot move just gets consumed.”