B.C. community outraged after 2nd owl likely killed by rat poison
Published Wednesday, October 28, 2020 11:49AM PDT Last Updated Wednesday, October 28, 2020 3:07PM PDT
VICTORIA -- Owl advocates are calling for a province-wide ban on rat poison after two owls were found dead in less than one week in one Vancouver Island neighbourhood.
Last week a well known great-horned owl nicknamed “Ollie” by a Saanich neighbourhood was found dead in Cuthbert Holmes Park. The beloved neighbourhood owl is believed to have died from rat poisoning.
On Monday evening, another owl was discovered in a backyard which borders Landsdowne Middle School. The short-eared owl was discovered by residents while out in the garden area.
The woman who found the deceased owl told CTV News that she found it laying on its side with no outward signs of trauma. She didn’t know what to do so she called Owl Watch BC to report it.
Today - only a few feathers remain where the bird of prey was discovered. The bird has been sealed in a bag and frozen and will be handed over to the provincial government where a necropsy may be conducted to determine its cause of death.
The short-eared owl is a migratory bird not common on Vancouver Island and is protected under the British Columbia Wildlife Act.
Deanna Pfeiffer, of Owl Watch BC, has her suspicions on what led to the owl’s demise.
“More than likely it ate some poisoned rat or a mouse in order to gain some nutrition before it was continuing on it’s flight path, and sadly, probably it was another victim of the rat poisoning,” she said.
Pfeiffer says it's well past time that B.C. transition to other methods of rodent control.
“We are losing an alarming amount of owls due to rodenticide which makes no sense. It’s counter productive, it’s not necessary and it’s poisoning our entire ecosystem,” she said. “There are better, safer methods available and this has got to stop.”
Owl Watch BC has been advocating for a province-wide ban on rodenticides. The group’s calls are echoed by several municipalities in the Capital Regional District, who believe the poison should no longer be used.
Saanich, Victoria, Colwood and Esquimalt are among 14 municipalities in B.C. that have banned the use of rodenticide at their properties. Another 11 B.C. cities are close to doing the same.
Owl advocates note that these bans only affect municipal areas like parks, properties and buildings. The ban does not include restrictions on commercial or residential use of the regulated poison, which is typically used by many pest control companies.
A province-wide ban on rodenticides can only be implemented by the B.C. government, says Owl Watch BC, but the group says its pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
When CTV News contacted the province for a statement, the B.C. government said it was unable to comment on this particular issue due to the current election.
“During the election period, all Government of B.C. communications are limited to health and public safety information, as well as statutory requirements,” said the province in a statement Tuesdsay. “We can direct you to information already publicly available. Thank you for your understanding.”
With two owl deaths discovered in a single region in less than a week, Pfeiffer says the need to issue a province-wide rodenticide ban is urgent.
“I hate that I am on the news again with such sad news and I’ve had enough,” she said.
“The community has had enough, and this has got to stop. They have to listen and they need to be looking at this horrible problem that is affecting our entire ecosystem,” she said.
Pfeiffer says that education is key in advocating for owl safety and she says she frequently canvasses her neighborhood to try to educate people about the dangers of rat poison. She strongly urges people to educate themselves on alternative solutions, like proactively removing animal attractants in yards and covering up any holes that could allow a rodent into a home.
The owl advocate says one owl can eat approximately 1,000 rats a year and are an effective method of controlling rodent populations. But with more and more owls showing up dead, the rodents have less predators to keep them in check.
Pfeiffer adds that reporting dead owls is another way to help determine the extent of wildlife poisonings from rodenticide. Reports to the province can be made online here.
To find out more about Owl Watch BC and its advocacy work, check out its Facebook page here.