A Saanich woman and advocate for the protection of owls is raising alarms again, after a dead great horned owl was found near the B.C. Ministry of Environment’s Jutland Road office in Victoria.
Deanna Pfeifer, director of local grassroots campaign Rodenticide Free B.C., received a call from a resident about the owl the evening of Nov. 16. After arriving at the scene, Pfeifer took photos, bagged up the owl and inspected the area – she said it didn’t surprise her to find rodenticide nearby.
“We walked over to the closest building … and we found what’s called grain bait,” she said, noting that dyed whole grains were discovered under two black rodent bait boxes. The warning labels on the boxes listed their contents as rodenticide with the active ingredient bromadiolone, a substance among those temporarily banned by the province back in July.
“I’m just wondering why this is outside the Ministry of Environment, of all places,” Pfeifer said.
She and other advocates such as the BCSPCA have lobbied the ministry about the secondary poisoning that happens when owls and other raptors consume rodents that have eaten bait laced with rodenticides. That lobbying effort helped lead to the issuing in July of a temporary (18 months) provincial ban on the sale and use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs).
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In a statement to Black Press Media, the ministry said as soon as it learned of the dead bird and the discovery of the rodent bait boxes, its compliance and enforcement unit alerted the building manager and an investigation was launched.
The ministry said it has since confirmed SGARs were not used at the Jutland Road site, and claimed incorrect labels were placed on the boxes, an issue it said has since been rectified. The statement also noted that since the owl was removed from the site, the ministry has no way to determine the cause of death.
Pfeifer has taken it upon herself to be the go-to person when dead owls are found in Greater Victoria. She bags them and stores them in her own walk-in freezer before sending them away to be necropsied at the Animal Health Centre lab in Abbotsford, a facility that was recently flooded out. Noting the lack of information forthcoming when such testing is left to the ministry, she plans to keep any unanalyzed owls in her freezer until the Abbotsford lab reopens or an alternative emerges.
While it may be some time before it is determined what killed this latest owl, Pfeifer insisted nothing short of a permanent ban on rodenticide use is needed to prevent further tragic wildlife deaths like this.
The temporary ban contains exemptions for essential industries including the food supply chain, electrical generation and distribution, fuel and heating supply, transportation, telecommunications and public safety. The ministerial order is in place until Jan. 20, 2023.
The ministry said it is conducting a scientific review of rodenticides that will provide recommendations for their future use in B.C.
To learn more about Rodenticide Free B.C. visit defendthemall.org/pagero.