Poisons In Parks – Owls

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl mother

Since this story has repercussions for our coyotes, I’m including it here.

A Great Horned owl pair has raised their owlets every year for the past 13 years in the same crook of a Eucalyptus tree. A couple of years ago I spent every day documenting the growth of that year’s clutch:  Owl Family With Triplets Grows Up.

Sadly, a month ago an owl carcass was found close to the Eucalyptus tree. It would have been a member of the same family we’ve all been observing and that I had documented: owls are territorial — this territory belongs to those owls.

Since we were all so fond of the owls, park goers contributed to have a necropsy performed. There was the possibility that the death could have resulted from old age, or avian flu. We were more concerned that it might have been the result of the large amounts of pesticides/herbicides used to eliminate non-native plants in the park — a park which calls itself a “natural area” but is not so at all. We’ve been trying to stop the use of these toxins for a long time, but without success. We received the results of the necropsy this week: the owl had died of rat poisoning. There may have been other toxins in the bird, but the carcass was only analyzed for rat poisoning.

Ours was Great Horned Owl Patient #1709, accepted at WildCare on November 8, to determine the cause of death. They found that this owl had been exposed to rat poisons — as have 74% of animals admitted to the facility this year. It was found to be well nourished, but it was internally toxic, discolored and hemorrhaged throughout: it had died of “presumptive AR intoxication”,  anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning. So it had eaten poisoned rodents. Great Horned owls consume about five medium sized rodents a day, which amounts to about 10% of their body weight a day. When they are raising their young, they eat substantially more than this.

Rodenticides kill by causing an animal to bleed to death internally. It is a slow and painful death. The animal’s activity is slowed down, and it becomes easy prey for one of our animals higher up the food chain: owls, hawks, raccoons, or coyotes. And so, the poisons get passed along.

Please, let’s protect our remaining owls, and the other wildlife in our parks, including coyotes. Please don’t use rat poisons in your households.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cindie White
    Dec 20, 2012 @ 00:11:16

    This is very sad. I appreciate so much your work on behalf of the owls. Thank you for the story.


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