The rare white raven, Blizzard, has taken Vancouver Island’s North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRC) by storm.
Since being brought out to the public for viewing two weeks ago, the leucistic juvenile bird has become a huge attraction that many visitors are eager to see.
Animal care supervisor Derek Downes said they have been extremely careful not to expose Blizzard to the public too soon. They wanted to do it gradually. But since they’ve started to put Blizzard on the spotlight, Downes said, they were surprised that Blizzard reacted positively to the huge attention he has been receiving.
“We wanted a soft transition for him,” said Downes. “We did not advertise it because there’s enough people coming through to give him enough stimulation in his new environment. We didn’t want to stress him too much. And luckily he responded amazingly. He was willing to come up to the front and interact with people almost immediately.”
Blizzard, who earned the name for his snow-white feathers, came to the care of the NIWRC a year ago. He was on the brink of emaciation, unable to fly and had infected wounds all over his body. The centre nursed Blizzard back to a healthy state.
Downes said they’re confident Blizzard has transitioned well in his new enclosure located in the public display area at the centre. The centre really wanted to share Blizzard’s beauty and splendor with the community.
“Visitors are taken aback when they see Blizzard,” said Downes. “Blizzard is the star of the show. He has transitioned so nicely. I worked so hard with him during the winter to acclimate him to being more comfortable with people and things. And now he just comes up to the front. Certain people he really takes a liking to. There’s been a couple of young folks that stand in front of him and they mimic each other back and forth. He’ll say ‘hello’ periodically. He’ll say ‘good morning’ periodically because he is really good at mimicry.”
The centre also has another white raven, Buddy, in its care. He was brought to the centre last June in very poor condition, malnourished and full of infections. It is also leucistic and cannot be released.
Downes said Buddy is making a quick recovery. His journey back to health, Downes said, is vastly different from Blizzard’s.
“Stress was very hard on Blizzard and was very susceptible to stress,” said Downs. “Despite the treatment, we take one step forward and one step back every time. Because we’re restraining him, tube-feeding him and many others. There’s a certain stress level involved in that. But this new raven that came in was far worse condition than Blizzard was.”
The experience and knowledge they’ve gained in restoring Blizzard to health for a year, Downes said, helped them determine the treatment plan for Buddy. What accelerated Buddy’s recovery, Downes said, was his personality.
“He jumped up to my arm unprompted and when he did that I said ‘this bird is a little different,’” said Downes. “He is a really special bird and is in the process of being glove-trained. So hopefully we can take this one step further.”
It will be a rare event when both white ravens will be on display at the recover centre, said Downes.
The NIWRC has rescued over 20,000 birds and animals on Vancouver Island over the years. Located at 1240 Leffler Road in Errington, the centre is open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
If you wish to donate to the NIWRC, and for more information, visit their website at https://www.niwra.org/