An injured bird will hopefully be soaring soon through the sky on a plane to southern British Columbia.
A cormorant with a hurt foot, likely due to a vehicle collision, has been recuperating at the Medicine River Wildlife Centre, and efforts are underway to fly him to the Lower Mainland, where he can be released.
Executive director Carol Kelly said Alberta’s frozen winter waterways make it impossible to release him in the province, and keeping him until he can be freed in the spring is not the best solution.
“In order for us to hold him until cormorants come back to Alberta, we’ve probably got five months of feeding a bird that loves to eat smelly fish and doesn’t love to be in captivity,” Kelly said.
The cormorant has been kept in a quiet, private room with a large container of water that is filled once a day with fish. Smoky Trout Farm has donated 112 kilograms of trout to help feed the cormorant. Anyone else who wants to donate can visit www.medicineriverwildlifecentre.ca.
Kelly said a friend has volunteered to fly the bird to B.C., where another wildlife organization will release him. But first, she has to obtain an export permit from the Alberta government and an import permit from the B.C. government. The process was initiated Monday.
“There’s lots of red tape in my business.”
She said the last time she tried to export a bird to the West Coast, the B.C. government refused permission, saying it might be diseased, even though the bird received a clean bill of health, and would normally have migrated to B.C. if it had not been injured.
“I can’t guarantee anything at this point.”
The centre regularly takes care of birds each winter that missed their window of opportunity to migrate.
Kelly said every effort is made to release the birds in the fall, but they are not always ready. Right now, the centre has a juvenile cedar waxwing, whose species has long since migrated.
“It’s a flock species. They travel in big flocks, so to release one lonely, little juvenile in the wrong time of year, it probably wouldn’t survive.”
This year, the centre is caring for about seven species, including a robin, white-throated sparrow, sandpiper and grosbeak, that are living together in a large, floor-to-ceiling indoor pen.
“They’re not difficult to maintain for the winter. They all live quite happily together and they will be fine until spring. They feel comfortable because they have trees in their big cage.”