I love owls - especially barn owls. Do I want to train one? No. Been there and wasn't impressed by their intelligence.
But I think they are cool - and necessary. I love that owl boxes are going up across the country to help control rodent populations.
But owls have a new twist on an old predator.
Working in darkness, with the quarter-moon obscured by clouds, these two scientists are trying to figure out what an elusive, radio-collared owl is eating along this country road just beyond the suburbs that ring Vancouver. Their mission is to determine whether the decline of Canada’s barn owl is tied, in part, to super-toxic rat poisons.
Scientists know that at least some owls are dying under gruesome circumstances, bleeding to death from stomach hemorrhages in an agonizing and days-long decline. The culprit: An extra-potent class of rat poisons that has flooded the market in recent decades, designed to more effectively kill rats, a food source for the owls.
Six of 164 dead barn owls, barred owls and great horned owls in a 2009 western Canada study had rodenticide levels high enough to kill them outright, causing the fatal stomach hemorrhages. Pesticide readings in 15 percent to 30 percent of the others appeared toxic and seem likely to handicap owls in a variety of ways, scientists say.
The study is the latest evidence amassed by researchers that poses an unsettling question: Are we willing to poison owls and a variety of other wild animals in order to fight rats?
“We’re finding this stuff all over the place,” said John Elliott, an Environment Canada scientist who co-authored the owl study published last year. “There’s a lot more rodenticide in the food chain than we would have ever thought. We’re surprised that there’s that much of the stuff kicking around.”
Studies in Canada, the United States and Europe show that this newer generation of rat poisons is killing a variety of wild animals, including mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, skunks, deer, squirrels, possums and raccoons, along with bald eagles, golden eagles, owls, hawks and vultures.
There are better options. okay maybe not more efficient options, but options with less collateral damage.
And that is what its about - the least amount of collateral damage.
Try ratting with your terrier.
What do you do if you don't have a terrier?
Try it with any dog.