You can’t make off with Otis or Sophia, the blind owl ambassadors for the Medicine River Wildlife Centre.
But you could go home with the next best thing — a wide-eyed owl collectible — if you make a reasonable offer, said Carol Kelly, the centre’s executive-director.
More than 450 owl-themed trinkets of all shapes and sizes are being sold at Red Deer’s public market as a fundraiser for the Spruce View facility’s wildlife programs.
The assorted figurines, salt-and-pepper shakers, soaps, towels etc. were left to the centre by the late Betty Bourne, of Red Deer, who wanted to support Kelly’s rehabilitation work. Bourne was 97 years old when she passed away, and people had been giving her owl-related items for years. Apparently, everyone knew she liked owls, said Kelly. “When people get older, you have (fewer) choices for gifts, so if you know they like owls, you give them owls…”
Bourne’s amassed collection is impressive in size and scope. There’s something for collectors of all tastes, added Kelly, who will continue selling the goods — with the help of supporters Morris Flewwelling, Red Deer’s former mayor, and city councillor Lynne Mulder — at the Sept. 17 Red Deer market.
“There are owl tea sets, owl planters, some jewelry … it should be interesting because a lot of people collect owls.”
Kelly believes public interest in the nocturnal winged predators was stirred by Harry Potter books and movies.
But even before author J.K. Rowling dreamed up Harry’s mail-carrying snowy owl, Hedwig, the saucer-eyed birds carried a certain appeal.
“People find their big eyes attractive, and they appear soft, gentle and wise,” said Kelly.
A few adults have gotten emotional over Otis, the great horned owl, and Sophia, the great grey owl — the two blind birds used for centre education programs and as wildlife ambassadors. “One woman started to cry,” recalled Kelly. “She said, ‘I love owls so much I can’t believe you have one here!’”
Alberta actually has 13 species of owls in the wild. And the centre has seen many of them come in as patients over the years after they became injured by rural fencing or power lines.
The small burrowing owl remains endangered in the province, while great horned owls seem to be thriving, said Kelly.
She hopes anyone who cares about the welfare of real owls and other Alberta wildlife will support the centre, which is fundraising for a new hospital building.
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