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.

Just Posted

Singer Ben Cottrill performs during the 2019 Arty Awards at The Reach Gallery Museum, the last time the event was held in person. Cottrill received the award in the performing arts category. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Nominations now open for 2021 Arty Awards

Annual event hosted by Abbotsford Arts Council, with ceremony Sept. 25

Xauni de Figeuiroa of Abbotsford has been selected to attend a virtual space camp hosted by the Canadian Space Agency at the end of July.
Abbotsford student selected to attend virtual space camp

Xauni de Figeuiroa among 52 youth selected from across Canada

Kindergarten kids from Evans elementary school in Chilliwack painted rocks with orange hearts and delivered them to Sto:lo Elders Lodge recently after learning about residential schools. (Laura Bridge photo)
Kindergarten class paints rocks with orange hearts in Chilliwack for local elders

‘Compassion and empathy’ being shown by kids learning about residential schools

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

A program of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation enables patients to thank their health-care workers.
Fraser Valley program enables patients to say thanks to their health-care workers

Philip Harris Grateful Patient Program offered through health care foundation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

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

Most Read