Local environmental advocate Dorothy Chambers was devastated when she came across a large Great Horned owl – referred to as “Ollie” – lying dead at the edge of the Colquitz River on Oct. 17.
Ollie was found in the mud-flats where owls are frequently spotted roosting, Chambers said, noting that she’d been monitoring him for about nine years. She said Ollie had fathered many owlets in the park with his mate of more than a decade.
When Chambers found Ollie, he was freshly dead and wasn’t even wet yet – meaning his body hadn’t been on the river’s edge when the tide changed. She added that there were “no visible signs of injury” which can indicate poisoning.
Chambers placed Ollie’s body in her freezer so that it can be sent for a necropsy through the B.C. Ministry of Environment.
Several other owls have been found dead in Saanich and across the region over the past year and necropsy results showed various rat poisons as the cause. As a result, Saanich banned rodenticide use at its municipal facilities in July and began pushing for the province to enact an outright ban. Oak Bay, Sooke, North Saanich and Colwood councils have followed suit.
In August, Mayor Fred Haynes said Saanich received correspondence from the province stating that a B.C.-wide ban on rodenticides isn’t currently being considered. Instead, the province is focused on education, controlling the use of pesticides and reminding B.C. residents that poisons are a “last resort.”
“I am completely dumbfounded that these rodenticides are still in use,” Chambers said, adding that she’d assumed pest poisons had already been banned due to the negative impacts on wild and domestic animals.
Chambers is also concerned about Ollie’s mate – she had not been spotted for several days and as mates share food, if Ollie was indeed poisoned, then the female owl may have died as well.
“I just feel sick,” she wrote in an email to the Ministry. “This pair has fledged two young each year and their history here in this park is very well known.”