Residents concerned after multiple owls discovered dead in North Saanich

Residents concerned after multiple owls discovered dead in North Saanich
WatchMultiple owls have turned up dead in Greater Victoria lately, causing concern among residents. Kevin Charach has more.

In recent months, Natasha Illi’s normally peaceful dog walks have taken a dark turn.

“In the last couple months, there’s been four reported owls in my neighborhood and I’ve lived here for 11 years and never found a dead animal,” said the North Saanich resident.

Illi says she discovered two of the owls on separate walks while the other two were discovered by neighbours. She says the owls appeared to have minimal physical damage and she suspects they were poisoned.

“What I’m afraid of is someone using rodenticides in our neighbourhood,” said Illi, who lives near multiple farms.

Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides or SGAR’s — also known as a form of rat poison — are illegal for use by homeowners. They can be used legally by pest control services and for some commercial purposes such as farming, restaurants, food processing plants, and hospitals.

In July, the B.C. government announced an 18-month ban on SGAR’s, citing its harm to owls and other wildlife when consumed. Animal advocates, however, say due to the provincial government’s lack of enforcement and several exemptions to the rule, the ban simply hasn’t worked.

“I want the minister to ban these products in B.C.,” said Deanna Pfeifer, a member of Owl Watch B.C. “He has that power.”

Pfeifer says she receives weekly calls of wildlife, particularly owls, dying under unusual circumstances. She says she’s seen plenty of research and evidence of rodenticides causing serious harm and even death to a significant portion of the owl population over the years.

“It’s not the misuse of these products, it’s the use of these products that continually kill our wildlife,” said Pfeifer, who’s also a member of Rodenticide-Free B.C.

Back in North Saanich, Illi walks her dog Milli on a tight leash.

“There’s been a few times where there’s been mice and voles that are really out of it, and then my dogs have actually grabbed onto them on our walks and I’ve had to get them out of there mouths, so I’m deeply afraid for my animals and the animals in this neighborhood,” said Illi.

The Ministry of Environment responded to CHEK News saying the province inspects both vendors and exempted users of SGAR’s.

“Inspectors are verifying that both vendors and users are aware and complying with the requirements of the ministerial order,” read the statement. “In the North Saanich area, ministry inspectors conducted inspections of several farms in mid-September to verify if rodenticides were being used. No use of rodenticides was discovered.”

However, the ministry said it could not verify if any of the recent deceased owls were tested for rodenticides.

To report a dead raptor, people can call the Interagency Wild Bird Mortality Investigation Program hotline at 1-866-431-2473. To report a raptor that is alive but appears sick, people can call the BC SPCA provincial call centre at 1-855-622-7722.

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Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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