British Columbia

Bird rescue centre raises concerns about rat poison

The Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta, B.C., says rat poison can seriously harm and even kill birds who hunt rodents.

Poisons often affect more than their intended target, says raptor manager

Rob Hope, the raptor care manager with the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, says they found owls poisoned by rat poison. (Max Haberstroh/CBC)

A bird rescue centre is raising concerns about rat poison, which it says can seriously harm or kill birds who prey on rodents.

Rob Hope, a raptor manager with the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta, B.C., says the centre has already found two dead owls in North Vancouver that contained high levels of bromadiolone, a chemical commonly found in rat poison.

"[There was] not a feather out of place, no sign of trauma. There's no other alternative other than poisoning and when those birds were tested, it was confirmed," Hope said.

He says birds like owls and hawks are affected by secondary poisoning. That's when a predator eats a mouse or rat that has eaten poisoned bait.

"It takes about 10 days for [the poison] to really affect the rat or the mouse. Oftentimes, they're lethargic. They're not just as fast as a healthy rat or mouse ... [and] those are usually the ones that owls will take," he said.

The Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society says any bird that hunts rodents, like this owl, can be vulnerable to rat poison. ( Max Haberstroh/CBC)

Part of the problem, Hope says, is that new rat poisons are more potent than older versions. This, he says, coupled with the fact there are more rats and mice means secondary poisoning is an increased risk.

And it's not only owls and other birds of prey at risk. Hope says pets like cats and dogs are also susceptible.

"Poison is poison. It doesn't care who you are or what you are," Hope said. "The ones who eat rodents, or whose main diet is rodents, they're the ones that seem to be mostly affected."

Hope says residents can make things easier on the birds by using rodent traps instead of poison.

"You do have to check the traps every day … It's definitely a safer alternative for the environment and for people in general to use."

With files from Max Haberstroh