A few weeks ago, the Glen Park group had news of a Great Horned Owl found dead in Glen Canyon. There’s a well-known pair of owls that nest there every year, and typically raise two or three chicks. Neighbors fear this may be the male of that pair.
Of course people were upset, and they raised money for a necropsy – an autopsy for animals. This was
conducted arranged by Wildcare, a wonderful organization that rehabilitates injured wildlife. (I’ve written about them before, HERE.)
The result came in today. The owl died from eating poisoned rodents.
According the Wildcare press release,
“Commonly available rodenticides [rat poisons] are consumed by rodents, the basic food source for a number of different predators all the way up the food chain. These poisons kill by making whatever animal eats them bleed to death internally – slowly and painfully. While the poisoned animals – targeted or not – are still alive, they can be consumed by other predators. It is a terrifying prospect; to kill many animals while targeting only one.”
A Great Horned Owl eats about 5 rodents a day, and much more if it’s feeding young. Its favorite prey is skunk, but it also eats rats and mice, rabbits, and birds. If someone poisons rats to get rid of them, they don’t die right away. Instead they wander around, increasingly weak and slow – and thus particularly attractive to predators. The poison can then kill the bird or animal that eats it – or even the next animal up the food chain. [Edited to add: More HERE about the specific poisons that killed this owl.]
PROTECTING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD OWLS
We have Great Horned Owls in our neighborhood. I’ve seen them in Sutro Forest, up on the hillside, and in trees along Crestmont and Christopher. I’ve seen one on a lamp-post on Clarendon Avenue. We also have barn owls, which are even more vulnerable because they’re not large enough to eat skunks but eat more rats and mice instead. Every time we use rat poison, we’re endangering these birds.