Environmental advocate, Dorothy Chambers holds up the body of a well-known Great Horned owl found dead in Cuthbert Holmes Park on Oct. 17. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Environmental advocate, Dorothy Chambers holds up the body of a well-known Great Horned owl found dead in Cuthbert Holmes Park on Oct. 17. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Poison suspected after well-known owl found dead in Saanich park

Body of Ollie the Great Horned owl discovered in Cuthbert Holmes Park

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.

READ ALSO: Third dead owl found in Greater Victoria, Saanich mayor suspects rat poisoning

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.

READ ALSO: Saanich residents sound alarm after second owl dies of rat poison

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.

READ ALSO: Saanich bans municipal rodenticide use after owl deaths

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.”


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Environmental advocate, Dorothy Chambers cradles an owlet – fathered by the owl recently found dead – that fell from its nest in 2018. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Environmental advocate, Dorothy Chambers cradles an owlet – fathered by the owl recently found dead – that fell from its nest in 2018. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Ollie the recently deceased Great Horned owl fathered many owlets like this one in Cuthbert Holmes Park over the past decade. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Ollie the recently deceased Great Horned owl fathered many owlets like this one in Cuthbert Holmes Park over the past decade. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Ollie the recently deceased Great Horned owl fathered many owlets, including these two, in Cuthbert Holmes Park over the past decade. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Ollie the recently deceased Great Horned owl fathered many owlets, including these two, in Cuthbert Holmes Park over the past decade. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Ollie the recently deceased Great Horned owl fathered many owlets, including these two, in Cuthbert Holmes Park over the past decade. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)

Ollie the recently deceased Great Horned owl fathered many owlets, including these two, in Cuthbert Holmes Park over the past decade. (Photo courtesy Dorothy Chambers)