Scientists know at least some owls are dying under gruesome circumstances, bleeding to death from stomach hemorrhages in an agonizing and days-long decline. The culprit: an extra-potent class of rodenticides that has flooded the market, designed to more effectively kill rats, a food source for the owls.
Six of 164 dead barn owls, barred owls and great horned owls in a western Canada study had pesticide levels high enough to kill them outright, causing the fatal hemorrhages. Pesticide readings in 15 to 30 percent of the others appeared toxic and seemed likely to handicap owls in a variety of ways, scientists say.
The Canada study is the latest evidence amassed by researchers that poses an unsettling question: Are we willing to poison owls and a variety of other wild animals in order to fight rats? That’s what this new generation of rat poisons does.