Rat poison is to blame for a second owl that died near Kings Park in Saanich.
On April 15, workers at a construction site on Kings Road spotted a sick Great Horned Owl swaying around before it fell and died. One of the workers reached out to Robert Vanzella, a resident who came across a poisoned owl in the area last fall, asking him to collect the bird’s body.
Vanzella and his wife, Deanna Pfeifer, came across a dead Barred Owl near Kings Park on Nov. 29, 2019 and took it home to learn a cause of death. Necropsy results showed that owl had two different commercial-grade rat poisons – brodifacoum and bromadiolone – in its system.
Vanzella and Pfeifer suspected rat poison in the second owl. Following a necropsy at the Animal Health Centre lab in early May, the Ministry of Agriculture reported that the Great Horned Owl had been healthy and robust before it died from suspected anticoagulant rodenticide toxicity.
This owl had traces of three different rat poisons – brodifacoum, bromadiolone and difethialone – in its body, Vanzella said.
He explained that rat poisons aren’t just lethal to rodents but also to their predators as the poison can stay active for months.
Vanzella said residents have spotted several bait boxes in the neighbourhood surrounding Kings Park – many of which he said don’t comply with provincial pesticide regulations. He and Pfeifer have filed complaints with the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
“This is such a frustrating thing,” Pfeifer said. “We have been working non-stop to try and create change but here we are with another owl in our arms.”
The couple is campaigning for the removal of the bait boxes and the use of alternative rodent control options.
Pfeifer pointed out that there are a number of steps that should be taken prior to using rat poison – including securing buildings to stop rodents from entering, covering garbage cans to cut off their food source, setting up humane traps and using rat contraceptives to manage the rat population.
Rat poison is meant to be “a last-ditch effort,” she said.
Pfeifer has been in contact with various North American advocacy organizations fighting for reduced use of rat poison, new pest control options and increased enforcement of pesticide regulations.
She and Vanzella have also reached out to a number of local authorities to share their concerns including both Saanich and Victoria mayor and council, the B.C. Senior Integrated Pest Management Officer and municipal health officers. As of May 28, they’d received positive responses from Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes and Coun. Ned Taylor.
Once the use of rat poison is reduced in the area, Pfeifer hopes to construct nesting boxes to attract owls back to the park to provide natural rodent control.