North Thompson Valley resident Rhiannon Guera holds her falcon Gryla, a gyr-saker hybrid. She is seeking ranchers and farmers who will let her use their property for her to use as a hunting ground for a new hawk she hopes to get and train soon.

North Thompson Valley resident Rhiannon Guera holds her falcon Gryla, a gyr-saker hybrid. She is seeking ranchers and farmers who will let her use their property for her to use as a hunting ground for a new hawk she hopes to get and train soon.

Falconer seeks hunting grounds for bird

“You definitely have a different relationship with a bird of prey”

By Keith McNeill

“Are you a local rancher with pest problems, including squirrels, rabbits, and columbian ground squirrels, that you wouldn’t mind being taken care of?

“I am a resident falconer who moved to the area in the fall and am looking for properties to hunt on. No firearms, no traps, no poisons, just me and my bird looking for acreage to walk around in.”

That was a posting that North Thompson Valley resident Rhiannon Guerra recently put onto social media. It got a good response and she now has several leads for possible places to train a new hawk on how to hunt, she reported.

“When working with and training raptors they already come with incredible instincts how to hunt for their prey. The first year or two a captive-bred bird needs to be set up to succeed by their falconer to get the best possible chance to hone their skills in hunting, as they would learn from their parents, in the wilds,” she said. “What they are really doing up there is waiting for you to stir up a rabbit that they can come in and take. You’re just a tool to flush their prey for them.”

Apparently it is not unusual for hawks in the wild to develop reciprocal relationships with other animals, such as badgers and coyotes.

For example, a badger might dig up a gopher den only to have the small rodent escape out of another hole. The hawk will swoop down and take it. Sometimes what happens, however, is the gopher will turn and run back towards the badger. That means both partners are better off because of the relationship.

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What the falconer is doing is essentially taking advantage of the hawks’ instinctive inclination to work with another species, in this case human beings.

“It’s a matter of building up their trust and your relationship with them,” Guerra said.

Originally from Savona, Guerra first became interested in reptiles when she was a teenager.

From there it was an easy transition to birds of prey.

“I personally just found a relatable connection working with reptiles and then to birds,” she said.

She has been involved in falconry for about four or five years and has had her B.C. falconer’s license for two years.

Since June of last year she has been Wildsafe BC community coordinator for the TNRD. As such, she has been working with Frank Ritcey, the Wildsafe BC provincial coordinator and a former resident of Clearwater and Upper Clearwater.

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She lived in Kamloops for a while and then last October moved into a house near Clearwater with her partner, Dave Nasz, an electrical linesman.

The bird she has been working with, Gryla, is a female gyr-saker hybrid. She is not suitable for hunting as a result of how she was brought up and because she has been used as a breeder.

Being large, impressive and quiet, it is, however, ideal for taking into classrooms for school programs and science camps.

Guerra plans to get a new bird shortly, a Harris hawk, that she will train for hunting.

“That is why I am looking for farmland we can use,” she said. “It would just be recreational falconry to start out and at no charge.”

Other falconers have businesses that provide rodent and bird control services to vineyards and airfields, she pointed out. Eventually, she would like to offer regular patrols to ranchers and farmers and charge for them.

She calls her business Velocity Raptor Birds of Prey Services.

Guerra noted that in order to possess a bird of prey you need to have a falconry permit, which is regulated through the Ministry of Environment. Having wildlife in your possession without the proper permits can result in large fines or possibly jail time.

“This is good information to many residents who also think to purposefully feed wildlife such as bears and deer as it goes against the Wildlife Act,” she said.

Gryla holds an identification number that is registered to Guerra if she were ever lost or stolen.

At more than 3,000 years old, falconry is one of the oldest sports in the world. However, there are not many registered falconers in B.C. Guerra would like to see more people take it up.

“It’s a passionate hobby,” she said. “You definitely have a different relationship with a bird of prey.”



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Gryla is a gyr-saker hybrid.

Gryla is a gyr-saker hybrid.