Saanich residents were devastated when the lifeless body of the neighbourhood owl was found at the foot of the tree he once roosted in. Kings Road park neighbours requested a necropsy to determine what killed the resident Barred Owl and learned it was likely rat poison.
Neighbours near Kings Park in Saanich were concerned when they spotted this resident owl dead this morning. An autopsy has been requested to determine if the owl was poisoned.
— Devon Bidal (@devonscarlett) November 30, 2019
On Nov. 29, Rob Vanzella went out to look for the bird after a neighbour mentioned they’d spotted its body. Once he found it, Vanzella scooped the brown owl’s body off the ground and took it home so that it wouldn’t be scavenged before a cause of death could be determined.
Vanzella and his wife, Deanna Pfeifer, were concerned the owl may have died from rat poison but felt it could have been injured in a fight. They requested a necropsy to be sure.
The owl’s body was collected in December and brought to the Animal Health Centre lab in Abbotsford. The report Vanzella and Pfeifer received from the Ministry of Agriculture several weeks later concluded that the owl was poisoned. Two different commercial-grade rat poisons – Brodifacoum and Bromadiolone – were found in the bird’s liver.
The adult male owl had no injuries and was determined to be “well-muscled” and aside from being pale, he was in “excellent body condition.”
Vanzella explained that they were told the rat poisons are “highly lethal” and meant to be used by experts with caution.
Pfeifer noted that the presence of two poisons either means two households were using the poison or that one was using several poisons without realizing the risks to other wildlife who may eat the dead rats.
In March 2018, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture said the number of owls dying from poisoning more than doubled in a six-month period.
“This is an opportunity to raise awareness and get people to stop using rat poisons,” Pfeifer said.
She wants people to know that the convenience of rat poison shouldn’t outweigh animal safety; even if a rat dies, the poison in its body doesn’t “deactivate” meaning that an animal that eats it can die.
This incident has reinforced the Saanich residents’ resolve to protect the green space unofficially called Kings Park. The municipality bought the land from B.C. Hydro in 2019 for $5.5 million. The District also announced that $2.75 million would need to be fundraised by August 2020 to offset the cost of the park as Saanich borrowed $4 million for the purchase.
Pfeifer said the group is seeking donations from businesses and working to access grants but that fundraising events will be planned for the future.