Sad Death of Glen Canyon’s Great Horned Owl

Great horned owl in eucs (Photo: Janet Kessler)
Great horned owl, Glen Canyon (Photo: Janet Kessler)

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.”

three owlets (Photo: Janet Kessler)
Three Great Horned Owlets (Photo: Janet Kessler)

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.]


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.

Eucalyptus, fog, Great Horned Owl (Photo: Rupa Bose)
Eucalyptus, fog, Great Horned Owl (Photo: Rupa Bose)

6 thoughts on “Sad Death of Glen Canyon’s Great Horned Owl”

  1. I’ve stopped drinking Peet’s coffee since they’ve been sold to a company that sells d-con, a rat poison that is decimating our wildlife. See the excerpt from Jake Siggs “Nature News” Nov. 1, 2012.

    3. From Allen Fish:

    Friends don’t let friends drink Peet’s. Last Friday, the stockholders of our 40-year-old, locally-based beloved Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Inc., decided to buy off on the buy-out from Germany-based Johan A. Benckiser, the investment group that owns 10% of Reckitts-Beckiser. Reckitts-Benckiser is the biggest multinational household chemical products company that you’ve never heard of. They deal 37-billion dollars a year marketing 100’s of chemical products including Clearasil, Woolite, French’s Mustard, and d-Con.

    D-Con is where the environmental angle arises. As if losing our local Peet’s coffee weren’t bad enough, Peet’s new parent company is a raptor-killer. One of the greatest, current causes of raptor and predator deaths in the SF Bay Area (and in urban and rural zones all over the US) is d-Con. Wildcare in San Rafael has recorded rates of rat poisoning at nearly 80% for all predators and raptors brought in for autopsies. Because this has been known about for well over a decade, in 2008, the US EPA ordered rat poison companies to take these chemical poisons off the market. Reckitts-Benckiser said not a chance, and today they continue to sell the familiar, yellow, cheese-shaped boxes of candy-colored poison d-Con to anyone who wants to throw it around your house or yard.

    For more info on how you can help the anti-d-Con campaign, go to: For you Peet’s drinkers with an environmental conscience, it’s time to search out a new brand. I’ve switched to Philz.

    Webmaster: Thanks for this, Mary. D-con is “brodifacoum” which is one of the two poisons found in the dead owl. Just posted about it HERE.

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