Owl Watch BC is calling on Cranbrook residents to report any suspicious wildlife deaths as owls continue to die across the province from ingesting poisoned rodents.
Deanna Pfeifer is part of the Owl Watch BC group. She and many other advocates are hoping the public will report raptor deaths so the group can identify areas where poisonings are an issue.
Raptors include owls, hawks and eagles. Ironically, they depend on rodents as one of their main food sources. Pfeifer says that owls will eat up to one thousand rodents every year and that raptors are important in keeping rodent populations down.
Brodifacoum and bromadiolone are two of the poisons sold in B.C. to control rodents. According to Owl Watch, brodifacoum sales have increased by 19 per cent, while bromadiolone sales have increased by 279 per cent between 2003 and 2015.
The number of animals lost to these compounds is difficult to quantify, says Owl Watch BC, because most are left unreported or unanalyzed.
Pfeifer took to a local Facebook page, Cranbrook Community Forest Happenings, to ask residents to report any sightings of dead or sick owls and other wildlife.
This issue is especially poignant in Cranbrook and Kimberley because it isn’t just owls and wildlife that are being affected. Several dogs have died in the past few years due to suspected poisonings in local community forests. In some instances, vets have found through necropsy reports that the dogs deaths are related to Compound 1080, which is illegal in B.C. and used to control wolves and coyotes. It is only available in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Pfeifer asks that anyone who encounters a dead or sick owl or other wildlife to report it through the Defend them All website at defendthemall.org, or directly to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This will help Owl Watch BC to better understand numbers and collect data across the province.
“We want to let people know that they should be reporting these types of wildlife findings,” Pfeifer said. “Don’t just bury it or throw it out. It’s important to know what these birds are dying from. The general public needs to know that this is happening. People often call me and don’t realize how these owls are dying.”
She adds that there is a trickle affect; poison used to control rodents can affect entire ecosystems including insects, fish and birds.
Pfeifer says more needs to be done to monitor how rodenticides are used in B.C. and questions why they aren’t banned.
According to an article in the Times Columnist, before the B.C. provincial election was called, Environment Minister George Hayman said the province was not willing to ban rodenticides, but rather increase awareness around the issue.
Pfeifer disagrees, saying that they should be banned immediately. She referred to an Owl Watch BC fact sheet about Second-Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides (SGARs), explaining their flaws.
“SGARs pose serious threats to B.C. wildlife species, the environment and human health,” reads the sheet. “While SGARs are legal, their permitted use is inconsistent with the obligations owed by the government to protect its citizens and the environment from harmful chemicals. SGARs are dangerous, ineffective, and unlawful. The government must take immediate action to prohibit the use of these products.”
Pfeifer has also asked for more information on how rodenticides affect humans and children.
According to Owl Watch BC, the American Association of Poison Control receives approximately 10,000 reports of rodenticide exposures in children annually in the United States.
“Health Canada has determined observations in the U.S. to be representative of the situation in Canada,” says Owl Watch BC.
Pfeifer says there are alternative methods for pest control and that pressure needs to be put on pest control companies to use more sustainable methods.
Similar to deterring other wildlife from our homes such as skunks, bears and deer, Pfeifer recommends eliminating food and water sources, eliminating places for rodents to hide and live, and making sure buildings are pest-proof.
Some examples include making sure that fruit trees are picked and pruned, keeping garbage in secure bins and locations, removing possible nesting places from properties such as old lumber, cars or furniture, repairing cracks and sealing off entry points.
“If snap traps are required and used, it should not be a permanent thing if the root cause is addressed,” Pfeifer explained.
Owl Watch BC echoes that statement, saying that ‘rodent-proofing’ our homes is the number one step to avoiding issues with the critters.
“These impacts are so incredibly widespread,” Pfeifer said. “Rodenticides need to be banned in B.C. now.”
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