Barn Owl Boot Camp offers fun events

By Dori O'Neal, Tri-City HeraldApril 18, 2013 

If you're an advocate for animals, then you might want to check out the Barn Owl Boot Camp this weekend in Richland.

The camp, from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Richland Community Center, will feature all sorts of educational activities for kids. Visitors can witness two redtail hawks being released into the wild.

"Kids' activities are many," said Marilyn Hayes with Blue Mountain Wildlife. "Two different owl masks to make, as well as a coloring book that illustrates what happens to baby barn owls -- from the time they are found in haystacks until they are able to eat a whole mouse and be placed in a hack box and learn to fly and hunt on their own."

Kids also will learn how to make paper airplanes that can fly like birds and visit with the Tri-City Americans mascot, Winger the bald eagle.

One of the hawks to be released is a mature male hit by a car last November near Othello. The other is a young female. Visitors will see how much larger female hawks are than males, which is common among raptors, Hayes said.

"The male, however, will have the red tail, as it takes several years for the red to manifest itself," she added.

The plight of the baby barn owls is an ongoing problem in Southeastern Washington. A growing number are turning up displaced or orphaned because they are born in haystacks. When the farmer moves the haystacks they lose their homes.

Blue Mountain Wildlife works nonstop to build replacement homes in safer locations and feed orphaned baby owls. It costs about $25,000 a year to feed all those homeless babies the mice that are the major part of their diet, Hayes said.

There is no admission fee to the event but donations are welcome.

More information about barn owls can be found at www.bluemountainwildlife.org.

-- Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @dorioneal

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