A Labrador man is hailed as a wildlife hero after rescuing a snowy owl from the cold waters of Little Lake near the North West River while kayaking on Friday.
Billy Gauthier took advantage of a lull in the late fall winds to paddle the lake and expected a peaceful getaway on the water.
Instead, out of nowhere, an owl swooped down from a nearby bridge, passing just above it.
“I actually got pretty close to me, actually. I was quite surprised at the start, ”said Gauthier.
Then he noticed the crowd of hot crows on the owl’s tail, bombarding the bird several times.
Gauthier and his paddling partner watched in horror as the attack unfolded before their eyes. Eventually, the group of crows – the collective name for which is aptly a “wickedness” – pushed the owl so close to the surface of the water that it fell into it.
“A few days before watching a YouTube video on how owls, crows, and crows are basically deadly enemies,” Gauthier said.
The owl, which was now swaying in the freezing water, did not appear to repel its attackers, he said.
“It was so beautiful. Still, I thought, this poor beast doesn’t even struggle. It’s going to drown.”
Gauthier moved closer, gently trying to lift the owl out of the water with his paddle and guide it to the bow of the kayak. She grabbed the boat and pulled herself out of the lake.
“She was completely waterlogged. Her wings were just totally saturated,” he said. “She sat in front of me for about 15 minutes. We continued to look each other in the eye, and I’ll never forget those amazing yellow eyes staring at me. It was amazing.”
Gauthier, his eye on the owl’s sharp talons, said he spoke to her calmly, moving slowly so as not to frighten the animal. His partner took a few photos while the bird was drying, and the two moved closer to shore to give the bird more time to recover.
They posted the photos on social media with great fanfare over the weekend. Gauthier, a woodcarver, said he would use memory in a future work of art.
“I love wildlife, and have always loved it. But this experience is very special to me,” he said.
“I think she realized that we were there to help save her, not to hurt her in any way.”
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