The Barn Owl Died of Rat Poison

dead barn owlI just heard back about the dead barn owl found in Glen Canyon. It was found to have died of rat poison. Here’s what they wrote us:

The dead Barn Owl we found and took to WildCare for rodenticide testing, Patient #1754, was found, indeed, to have died of rat poisoning.

Many people don’t know that when a hawk or owl or other predator eats a poisoned rodent, that animal gets poisoned too. Please STOP using rat poisons (rodenticides)! These poisons are killing the very animals, like this Barn Owl, that naturally control rodents.

The Barn Owl was found to be internally toxic, diffusely discolored and badly hemorrhaged throughout. There was evidence of a heavy load of the rodenticide brodifacoum in her system — enough to kill her.

Shockingly, over 86% of tested WildCare patients show evidence of exposure to rat poisons! These animals are eating poisoned rodents and carrying varying loads of toxic poison in their systems as a result. Rat poison used by residents of San Francisco is having dangerous and detrimental effects on the wildlife of our area. A Great Horned Owl was found dead last year due to the same rat poisoning.

Rat poisons kill by making whatever animal eats them bleed to death internally – slowly and painfully. While the poisoned rats or mice are still alive, they (and their deadly load of poison) can be consumed by other predators including cats and dogs. Rodents are the basic food source for a number of different predators all the way up the food chain. It is a terrifying prospect; to kill many animals while targeting only one. We need to find better ways to live well with wildlife.

If you need help with any wildlife issues, please contact WildCare Solutions at 415.456.7283 (456-SAVE), or http://www.wildcarebayarea.org/wildlifesolutions.

Barn Owls are one of the most common owl species in the country, but seeing one, especially in the City, is always a treat. These silent nocturnal hunters often appear completely white against the night sky as they glide over open spaces in search of rodent prey. A family of Barn Owls can eat over 3,000 rodents in a single 4-month breeding season, which makes them a magnificent source of rodent pest control, but also one of the most common victims of secondary rodenticide poisoning. Barn Owls nest early in the season, usually producing eggs sometime between January and March.

A special thanks to everyone who made a contribution to the testing, especially to the San Francisco Forest Alliance for their substantial donation.

I’ve seen barn owls very occasionally in our area. They’re beautiful. I am so sorry this happened.

Another Sad Owl Death in Glen Park

Another year, another dead owl in Glen Canyon Park. Last year, almost to the day, I wrote about a dead Great Horned Owl. This time, it’s a barn owl. It may have been poisoned by eating rats that had been poisoned with a rodenticide. Barn owls are wonderful at keeping rodents down, since they eat almost nothing but mice and rats – but when the rodents have been poisoned, the owls die.

dead barn owl

The poor owl has been sent to WildCare for a necropsy (that’s an autopsy for animals), so we can find out for sure. It costs $300 to perform this analysis, and so neighbors are asking for contributions to WildCare (which is a wonderful non-profit that takes in rescued wild animals and birds) to cover their costs.

Anyone willing to contribute can do so by mail, online or phone, please reference “Barn Owl Patient #1754″.

  • Phone: Contact WildCare’s Stewardship Manager, Jan Armstrong, 415-453-1000, ext. 13,
  • Onlinewildcarebayarea.org (there’s a link on the website to donate money by credit card)
  • By Check: Send it directly to WildCare, 76 Albert Park Lane, San Rafael, 94901.

This is relevant not just to Glen Canyon, but to all neighborhoods, including ours. We’ve seen barn owls here. Rodenticides kill not just mice and rats, but animals up the food chain: owls, dogs, cats, coyotes, hawks.

There’s an initiative to limit the use of some of the most destructive and dangerous ones: see WildCare’s Rodenticide Diagnostics & Advocacy Program . If you have additional questions about rodenticides, you may contact Wildlife Solutions Manager, Kelle Kacmarcik who is coordinating this effort. You may reach her at 415-456-7283, ext. 23.

Please help save our owls and other animals and birds!

 

Continuing Saga of Trashcans and Raccoons

I’d gone for a walk toward Tank Hill, the other evening, when I saw a shape scurrying across the road. Raccoon! And sure enough, it was Garbage Night, and there was the overturned trashcan. As I approached, I made out its tail, sticking out of the trashcan, and then, as it heard me, it came out and tried to decide whether to stay or run.

The light was poor, and the picture worse, but here you are. (It scampered off before I could get anything better.)

trashcan with racoon

I’ve been wondering what’s happened – raccoons never used to up-end trashcans like this. They’ve been on a learning curve, it seems. Apparently, that’s what urban wild-life does – it becomes smarter.  Here’s an article from Wired Science:  How City Living Is Reshaping the Brains and Behavior of Urban Animals

Article from Wired Science: How City Living is Changing Animals’ Brains

THREE TRASHCAN SOLUTIONS

trashcan with cross-over bungeesMeanwhile, our latest solution seems to be holding up – two crossed bungees, snagged outside the lid hinges on one side, and on either side of the main lip of the trashcan lid on the other. Like in this picture.

trashcan with bolt 2Walking around the neighborhood on garbage nights, we’ve seen other solutions.

One neighbor drilled a hole in the lid, and attached a strap with a bolt and washer. They then snagged the strap to the bar below.

 But the solution that looked simple and ingenious was the one that tied up the trashcans with a bow, like shoe-laces in a larger size. Because it’s rope, not bungee, it doesn’t stretch, so presumably it’s difficult for the raccoons to pry off.

Wonder when they’ll learn to untie shoe-laces…

trashcans tied in a bow

Stow Lake September Twilight

Today was a day of intermittent sunshine and beautiful clouds. In the evening,  a misty fog blew in and Stow Lake looked like something out of a romantic historical film. You half expected to see a lady on a white horse, or an armor-clad knight.

stow lake twilight

But even without the fantasy, it’s an interesting place at twilight; you never know what you’ll see.  (The downside is that my current camera, which hates low-light conditions, doesn’t get very good pics.)

By the time we got there, most of the crowds had left.  Only a few late walkers like us wandered around the lake.  The last boat of the evening paddled toward the jetty. The mallards, geese and Muscovy ducks circled the edges of the lake hopefully before the last visitors disappeared.

A gull near the Boathouse hopped down to the edge of lake and came up with – something. It was reddish and scrawny and didn’t look like a piece of sandwich or candy. It brought its catch ashore to deal with it, and I got a closer look. It was a small red crayfish. I wouldn’t have recognized it, except that some months ago, I actually saw a much bigger crayfish at Stow Lake. The gull gobbled it down before I could even whip out my camera.

A flight of birds passed overhead, looking somewhat like swans and calling to each other. Then I realized it was actually Canada Geese, bleached by mist and twilight. They swept around and landed on the lake.

From Strawberry Hill, a Great Horned Owl called softly  It sounded tentative, almost thoughtful. Probably just waking up and wanted its coffee.

On the other side of the lake, we noticed some black-and-white critters contrasting with the broad yellowish bare path on Strawberry Hill. Though the light was now quite poor, I looked carefully and realized it was a Mama Skunk with two kittens, hurrying along the path and occasionally detouring off it. Then I saw a bushy tail on our side, but it quickly hid amid the rocks at the lake-edge. It may be in the picture below – or not.

stow lake with hidden skunk

We passed the old stone bridge, and then, on cue at 7.55 p.m, I saw a bat, followed soon by several others. I tried for a photograph, but as usual, got only some smudges.  (My technique is to point my camera in their general direction and keep clicking madly.) Spot the bats?

bat smudge 2

bat smudge 1

a bat-smudge

The geese took off in small flocks, flying away to an unknown destination – maybe the Botanic Garden. It was so quiet I could hear the whistle of the wind in their wings.

Further along, the city noises returned – the rush of traffic along the 19th avenue intersecting the park.  It was back to our car, and back to the real world.

twlight tree

Of Raccoons, Trashcans, and Bungee Cords

single bungee on compostables trash can

A few days ago, I’d posted about the raccoon that visited our trashcans… and knocked them over to raid them.

Several neighbors suggested using bungee cords to keep them closed. Some were kind enough to send a detailed explanation of how to bungee a trashcan so the raccoons couldn’t open it.  So we duly got some cords, and fastened down the lids of the green “compostables” bin, and the black “landfill” bin. (We didn’t bother about the blue bin; we figured recyclable paper and plastic and cans wouldn’t interest the critters.)  And it worked!  I added a note to my previous post to say so.

Until it didn’t.

raccoon at night 2a

A few nights later, they pushed over the green bin, and then deftly moved aside the bungee cord enough to open the lid and drag out its contents.  Now what? we wondered. Someone suggested boring a hole through the lid of the trashcan and putting a chain through it.

Instead, we decided to try a double bungee, two cords on each bin.

So a few nights ago, I heard the now-familiar crash. They’d pushed the trashcan over. But this time the bungee cord held, and the bin stayed shut.  We hurried out, and saw a couple of raccoons scamper off.  We may have a solution.

trashcan with bungee cords

If we do, it’s this:

  • Fasten each bin with two bungee cords in parallel, hooked over the handle, and the bar on the other side that’s used to lift the trashcan over the truck. You may have to open the hooks a little with pliers so they can grab the bars; at least we did.
  • Remember to replace them every time you put something in the trashcan. My experience is the raccoons come around 1-5 a.m., but who knows? Maybe they come earlier on some days and some places. [Edited to Add: The other evening, they showed up before 10 p.m.]
  • Remember to remove the cords in the morning before the garbage trucks come round, or they won’t clear the garbage.

Of course, it’s a lot easier if you can just keep the trashcans in your garage, and put them out only on the morning of Garbage Day. But if you have two cars parked inside, or a garage full of Stuff, it may not be feasible.

Cute Coyote Pups – and Coexisting with Coyotes

This post is reprinted with permission from SFForest.net
Our area does get coyote visitors, and so do Twin Peaks, Laguna Honda, and possibly Sutro Forest. The video linked below has pointers for co-existing with coyotes.

As frequent visitors to our urban wild-lands and parks probably know already, coyotes are part of our city’s wildlife. They travel over considerable distances alone or in family groups, so you could actually see them anywhere (though wild-lands where they can hunt gophers are probably the best bet). And – this is coyote pupping season. Pups have already been seen in Golden Gate Park and elsewhere.

Coyote pups.  Janet Kessler
Coyote pups. Janet Kessler

A “HOW-TO” VIDEO ON COYOTES AS NEIGHBORS

It might be helpful to know as much as possible about what behavior to expect from them, especially in relation to ourselves and pets. For a one-stop informational video presentation — the most up-to-date there is — please view CoyoteCoexistence.Com‘s new video, Coyotes As Neighbors: Focus On Facts. Here’s the video:

If you have specific questions or issues, you may contact them at coyotecoexistence at gmail.com for one-on-one assistance.

coyote pups 1
Coyote Pups Alert. Janet Kessler

Protest the Poisoner with a Donation for Vet Bills

Sadly, Oskar the dachshund who was poisoned by the strychnine-laced meatballs, has died. The veterinary clinic did their best to save him, but lost the battle.

Oskar in veterinary hospital – photo credit: AIMSS Facebook page

The poisoner/s remains at large. There’s a $5,000 reward for information leading to their arrest. This dastardly crime could affect almost any animal or bird or even human – the police determine there was so much strychnine they advised against handling the meatballs without gloves. [Edited to Add: If you have information, call the police  at (415) 242 3000 – Lieutenant Pengel or Inspector Nannery – or the Animal Legal Defense Fund at (707) 795-2533, ext. 1010]

Meanwhile, Oskar’s treatment was hugely expensive. Already facing the tragic loss of her pet, his owner shouldn’t be left holding the bill for a crime that hits all of us as a community. I’m not a dog-owner, but I am using my donation to protest this horrible act. If you would like to do the same, here’s the Paypal link.

paypal button

The veterinary clinic, Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services,  notes on their Facebook page: “Donations can be submitted through the paypal site, as well as in person at the hospital via credit card. We regret that at this time we cannot accept checks. “

[Edited to Add: They’re at 1333 9th Avenue, San Francisco, California 94122; the phone number is (415) 566-0540 and they’re always open.]

[Edited to Add 2: In response to some questions from readers, I asked AIMSS what the target amount was, whether the funds would go directly to reducing the liability of Oskar’s owner, and what would happen to excess donations if the target was crossed.  Here’s what AIMSS said:

“Hey, Thanks for helping Oskar’s mom! So Oskar’s bill was capped by the hospital when it reached $26,000. All funds raised go directly to Oskar’s medical cost. If we go over the target amount we will donate any additional funds to SF Aid for Animals.” ]