Vancouver sees spike in barred owl sightings

barred owls invade vancouver Chantel Genio/Special to Postmedia

In the past couple of weeks, Vancouver has seen an invasion of barred owls. The city, known to have a large population of rats and mice, means easy pickings for these birds.

But this abundance in prey could actually be dangerous for the barred owls who have congregated in this urban centre. The feeding frenzy can bring these birds to the roadside, putting them in the path of speeding cars unaware of their presence. But that isn’t the only danger.

As the cheapest and simplest way of getting rid of pests, the go-to for homeowners looking to get rid a rodent problem is often rat poison. But this chemical takes a few days to take effect, making the infected animal appear unstable and vulnerable. Barred owls, always looking for the easiest meal, will target these weaker rats.

“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,” Rob Hope, a member of the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, told the National Post.

Even with these dangers, the barred owls appears to be thriving. According to Hope, these Vancouver birds are mostly youngsters looking to set up shop in a hunting area all their own. They don’t migrate, and rarely move far away from where they were born. According to All About Birds, of 158 barred owls that were banded and later found, none had moved further than 9 kilometres!

Residents of Vancouver have been enjoying the show, snapping photos from close up and posting to social media. You could say it’s been a real hoot!

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