District of North Vancouver halts use of owl-killing rat poisons

In a bid to save our hallowed owls, the District of North Vancouver will no longer be using rodenticides at its own facilities to control rat populations – and they’re hoping the idea will spread.

Council unanimously passed a motion from Coun. Megan Curren Monday night ending the district’s use of anticoagulation poisons, which cause rodents to slowly bleed out but also poison any other animals that consume the sick rats.

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The new rules will take effect in the pest management contracts for municipal hall, the operations centre, Jaycee House, the Deep Cove Cultural Centre, and the old Delbrook Rec Centre. But the motion also petitions the province to ban rodenticides outright and asks private landowners to stop using them in the meantime.

“There’s a lot of suffering that goes on with this poison and I think it's quite inhumane and there are alternatives out there. … We have a responsibility to give a voice to animals that don't have one without us,” Curren said. “This is a step that we can take to take action at the local level. We can be leaders and we can inspire change in other communities.”

Banning rodenticides is in keeping with the district’s declaration of an ecological emergency and the recommendations of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Curren said. But she also publicly thanked two North Vancouver residents for pushing for the ban: Yasmin Abidi and Elise Roberts. After Abidi rescued an owl that had survived two poisonings in three weeks, she started a petition that has netted more than 9,000 signatures calling for a ban. Roberts is co-founder of Owl Watch B.C.

Coun. Lisa Muri called the decision an “obvious no-brainer” and questioned why staff wouldn’t just implement the ban without being prodded by council.

Coun. Jim Hanson also noted how counterproductive the poison can be.

“In the proper scheme of things, an owl kills 1,000 rats a year. This really is bad policy to be killing owls in the name of killing rats,” he said.

Following the meeting, Abidi said she was thrilled to see the district take action,

“It was really just so wonderful to see so much support from every single council member. I had a big smile on my face when I was watching it,” she said. “It’s just really heartwarming to know that a government, even a local government, can make a change.”

Abidi and another volunteer recently returned to the area of Capilano River Regional Park where they had previously released the owl they dubbed Lucky. While there, they spotted a barred owl they were “pretty sure” was him perched in a tree, pleasantly “just being an owl.”

Abidi said she’s already heard from owl supporters in other municipalities who want to see their council do the same.

“Now the ripple effect can take over,” she said. “That’s really all I had hoped for.”

lucky owl
Lucky the North Vancouver barred owl patiently awaits his release in Capilano River Regional Park. photo Angela Clacey

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