Owl death prompts community calls for action
SAANICH, B.C. -- A Saanich neighborhood is mourning the death of a well-known owl who called Cuthbert Holmes Park home for almost a decade. The great-horned owl, affectionately known as “Ollie,” is believed to have died after ingesting rat poison.
“It’s devastating that we’ve lost another owl,” says Deanna Pfeifer, who works with Owl Watch B.C. “He meant a lot to a lot of people.”
She says she receives calls every day from people reporting owls that they believe have been poisoned. Ollie is the third owl in the Captial Regional District to have died from suspected rodenticides in the last three months.
Owl Watch B.C. has been advocating for a ban on rodenticides. Its calls are echoed by several municipalities in the Capital Regional District, who believe the dangerous poison should no longer be used.
“It seems so unnecessary,” says Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes. “Saanich, as a municipality, no longer uses rodenticides in any of its buildings.”
He says the city council has advocated to the province to have a complete ban on the poison.
“It’s a tragedy that some of our best species that help control rats, by eating one thousand or more a year, are being killed by people that are trying to control rats with poison,” Haynes says.
Pfeifer says she frequently canvasses her neighborhood to try to educate people about the dangers of rat poison. The BC SPCA is encouraging people to educate themselves on the alternative solutions. It also says people should be proactive by removing animal attractants and taking a walk around their home and covering up any holes where rodents could get in.
Andrea Wallace, the BC SPCA’s manager of wild animal welfare, says that rodenticides are not a humane way of controlling rodents.
“It actually takes several days for the rodent to die, it becomes slow and it’s easier to catch for predators … so it ends up running around and potentially poisoning other animals, including owls.”
Those who knew Ollie say they are going to miss seeing him and his two owlets around the park. While they are mourning, advocates say they are going to continue to push for a province-wide ban to help protect Ollie’s species.
“A decade ago, we had tons of owls, and people could go out in the evening and hear them,” says Pfeifer. “Now we get the odd one, and they are a treasure, and we are losing them.”