Decision Date: January 12, 2007
Panel: Alan Andison, Richard Cannings, David Ormerod
Keywords: Wildlife Act – s. 19; Wildlife Act Permit Regulation – ss. 2(f), (j), (m), (n), (t), 5(1)(b), Schedule 1; permit to possess or traffic in live wildlife; falconry; imported predatory birds
Pacific Northwest Raptors Ltd. (“PNWR”) appealed two separate decisions: a decision by the Regional Manager, Vancouver Island Region, Ministry of Environment (the “Ministry”), refusing to allow PNWR to “free fly” a Spectacled Owl or any other non-native owls in PNWR’s possession (Appeal No. 2006-WIL-005); and a decision by the Director of the Ministry to issue a permit that imposed restrictions on free flying and trafficking in certain eagles and owls in PNWR’s possession (Appeal No. 2006-WIL-016).
PNWR has operated a commercial bird of prey and falconry centre in Duncan, B.C. since 2002. PNWR conducts bird control operations and falconry courses with a number of legally imported captive bred birds. PNWR holds a commercial falconry permit, which allows it to free-fly certain birds for educational, media-related, and nuisance wildlife control purposes. PNWR also holds education permits for its captive bred eagles, owls, and some disabled birds. PNWR requested that the Board reverse the Regional Manager’s decision, and vary the Director’s decision by removing the permit restrictions pertaining to its imported captive bred Eurasian Eagle Owl and imported captive bred Spectacled Owl.
The Board found that the requirements that the Eurasian Eagle Owl be caged unless sterilized and not be free flown were unreasonable. The Board found that the risk of escape in this case was remote, and that, subject to one condition, PNWR had taken adequate steps to mitigate any risk of escape, invasiveness, disease, injury or other harm to native wildlife or the public. The Board found that the Eurasian Eagle Owl should not be flown on the southwestern mainland of B.C. within the known range of the native Spotted Owl, because the Eagle Owl is a large raptor that could prey upon native endangered birds such as the Spotted Owl.
Regarding the Spectacled Owl, the Board found that it was found to be free of West Nile virus when it was imported, and it poses no risk of hybridization with native species. The Board also found the PNWR had taken adequate steps to render negligible the risks associated with the bird’s risk of escape and its potential invasiveness. The Board concluded that allowing PNWR to free fly the Spectacled Owl for educational displays, media-related work, falconry or raptor courses, and flying demonstrations was not contrary to the proper management of wildlife in B.C.
In addition, the Board found that the permit condition prohibiting PNWR from rehabilitating injured raptors was reasonable, given the potential for a conflict of interest by PNWR due to its captive raptor breeding program. The Board further found that, except for the conditions pertaining to the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the Spectacled Owl, the permit conditions generally prohibiting PNWR from trafficking in non-class I and II raptors (i.e. non-traditional falconry birds such as eagles and owls), and imposing certain conditions on the free flying of specific birds, were a reasonable attempt by the Ministry to address PNWR’s needs within the limits of the existing regulatory scheme.
Accordingly, the Board rescinded the Regional Manager’s decision and the permit restrictions prohibiting PNWR from free-flying the Eagle Owl and requiring it to be caged unless sterilized, subject to the condition that it not be free flown within the known range of the Spotted Owl. The Board also rescinded the permit condition prohibiting PNWR from free flying the Spectacled Owl. The Board confirmed the permit conditions prohibiting PNWR from rehabilitating injured raptors, and the permit conditions generally prohibiting PNWR from trafficking in non-class I and II raptors and imposing certain conditions on the free flying of specific birds, except for the conditions pertaining to the Eurasian Eagle Owl and the Spectacled Owl.
The appeals were allowed, in part.