MARS volunteer Marie Kennedy visits with Sawyer, the saw-whet owl. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Saying good-bye to Sawyer, the ambassador owl

Community mourns popular little greeter at the mid-Island MARS wildlife rescue

The mid-Island’s MARS Wildlife Rescue has lost one of its mightiest ambassadors.

Tiny Sawyer, a northern saw-whet owl, passed away peacefully last weekend.

Sawyer came to MARS in August 2014 after being rescued on the front lawn of Comox’s Hatch-Colborne family. A probable cat attack left him with permanent damage to one wing which had to be surgically removed. Three years later, his veterinarian, Dr. Pawel, also removed an eye following an infection.

Unreleasable back to the wild due to his injuries, he was appointed a MARS ambassador and became a favourite with staff and visitors alike. The owl, standing only six inches tall, served at MARS for six years. Along with his handlers, he greeted guests at the MARS Visitor Centre in Merville, and interacted at educational events in schools, malls and special events. He always appeared to be ready to go to work, and his calm, steadfast manner impressed everyone he met.

His severe injuries did not prevent Sawyer either from discharging his ambassadorial duties nor – according to hospital staff — from keeping his one eye on the paperwork and computer data entry in the MARS hospital.

One of MARS’as newest bird handlers, Ron Kelly, eulogized Sawyer.

“To me, he was the quintessential ambassador who spent his life helping people connect to nature and to respect all beings. His calm, inquisitive nature made him a natural with groups of children and adults alike.”

A further tribute to Sawyer and his caregivers came from the rescue family, the Hatch-Colburnes.

“When we found him crumpled on our front lawn, covered in ants, we never imagined he would become the little wonder that stole the heart of our valley. You gave Sawyer a second life, a great one – he became a teacher! Many thanks to all MARS staff and volunteers for all you do.”

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