More barred owls sightings in Vancouver bad news for rats and mice

Owls can be hurt or killed flying into glass buildings or being hit by vehicles while hunting

More barred owls sightings in Vancouver bad news for rats and mice

A spike in owl sightings in downtown Vancouver could be good news for ridding the city of pesky rodents, a wildlife group says, but there’s a downside for the birds.

Photos of barred owls sitting outside transit stations and on building awnings have been circulating on Twitter in recent weeks.

Rob Hope with the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in nearby Delta said more predators like barred owls in the city can result in less prey.

“Rats and mice have always been a problem in Vancouver. With (owls) hanging around, more predators, they’ll be popping more prey,” he said Friday.

Hope said the bird population in the city can ebb and flow and there appears to be a population of younger owls ”that are looking for a hunting area or anywhere they can basically set up shop.”

Their usual targets are rats or pigeons, he said, adding downtown Vancouver seems to have a plentiful supply of the owls’ preferred food.

While a lower rat population benefits the city, the birds are at risk in that environment, Hope said.

Owls can be hurt or killed flying into glass buildings or being hit by vehicles while hunting, he said, contributing to an increase in the number of calls his organization has received about injured wildlife.

“When they’re on the sides of the roads hunting for food, obviously when a car is coming and they’re taking off or landing for food is when they’re getting smoked.”

Another major threat for the barred owls is rodenticide. Hope said owls eating rats that have consumed poison can themselves be poisoned.

Rat poison is the cheapest and easiest way to get rid of the pests, Hope said, but it can take up to 10 days for a rodent to die, after they’re left in a drunken-like state.

“If you have a rat that is hauling butt and you have another one that is a little off kilter, as opportunistic hunters that they are, they’re going to pick off the one that is kind of drunk and that’s usually the poisoned one,” Hope said.

He is encouraging people to switch to snap traps instead of poison, to minimize the harm to owls and other predators.

READ: Greater Vancouver Zoo celebrates 47th anniversary

With increased development, Hope said it’s possible that more owls will move into the city as they are pushed out of their natural habitat.

Barred owls have been culled in some areas of British Columbia to reduce competition and protect the endangered spotted owls, which are considered priority species. But Hope said the barred owls’ presence in Vancouver shouldn’t have a negative effect on other species.

Since barred owls are “more docile” than other birds, Hope said it’s not surprising that some of the photos taken by the public are within close range.

“They’re not the smartest ones, I guess you can say … even in the wild people can usually get five or six feet away from them before they’re spooked,” he said, adding anyone trying to snap a photo should still give a bird some space.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley letter writer hopes after seeing how Willoughby developed, the Township protects Walnut Grove green spaces. (Langley Advance Times file)
LETTER: Walnut Grove resident cherishes Langley’s green spaces

Willoughby was allowed to develop without enough consideration for nature, writer says

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – checkpoint at Manning Park

Four checkpoints are set up Thursday, May 6 around the province

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

Former Langley School District superintendent Suzanne Hoffman is the new CEO of the B.C. School Trustee Association (BCSTA). (Black Press Media files)
Former Langley school superintendent to lead trustee organization

Suzanne Hoffman worked for Langley before a job with Vancouver School Board

Integrated Homicide Investigation Team Sgt. Frank Jang said outside of Langley Sportsplex at 91a Ave and 200 Street after a man was fatally shot in April 2021. (Black Press Media file)
LETTER: Casual drug users have link to gang killings, says Langley letter writer

The Lower Mainland is in the midst of another gang war and the illicit drug market is part of it

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Serious crash in Surrey sends 1 to hospital

Surrey RCMP say one of the drivers fled on foot, but was later found at an area hospital

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Most Read