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Rehabiliator says owl illness, deaths likely caused by poisoned rodents

Union Leader Correspondent

May 24. 2018 8:10PM
Jane Kelly holds a snowy owl that's believed to have been sickened by eating a poisoned rodent. (Jason Schreiber/ UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

This is one of four snow owls that have recently been sickened. (Jason Schreiber)

EPPING — A local wildlife rehabilitator is sounding the alarm after one snowy owl died and three other owls were recently sickened by apparently eating poisoned rodents.

Over the past month, three snowy owls are believed to have suffered from rodenticide poisoning and were treated at On the Wing, a wildlife rehabilitation facility for birds of prey that Jane Kelly operates at her Epping home.

One of those sick owls died on May 18. Another recovered and was set free, and the third is still being treated but is expected to be released in the near future.

Kelly said a fourth snowy owl in Hampton also appears to have been sickened and is being monitored.

“The one in Hampton right now is weary. Its wings are drooped. It can only take a short flight and it’s low and it’s shaking its head,” she said.

Last week’s death follows the deaths of two barred owls earlier this year that Kelly believes were also caused by rodenticide poisoning.

“I think about rodenticides, but I never thought about them in that manner,” she said.

Kelly’s concern focuses on the use of poisons like d-CON, which is used to kill mice and rats. Kelly said the problem is that owls and other animals can become sick when they eat the poisoned rodents.

The environmental hazard listed on d-CON packaging states: “This product is extremely toxic to mammals, birds, and other wildlife. Dogs and other predatory and scavenging mammals and birds might be poisoned if they feed upon animals that have eaten this bait.”

Robert Rothe, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said his agency has been notified and is looking into the problem.

“Anytime there’s a take of a migratory bird it is concerning, especially if it’s multiple ones in the same area. There could be some issue there that needs to be addressed,” he said, adding that owls are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Kelly said she’s not blaming anyone for the problem because she understands that rodents carry disease and must be removed from homes, businesses and other places.

She encourages people to use non-toxic approaches to address their rodent problems. She suggested non-toxic products like RatX, snap traps, and electronic traps.

Kelly said people who contact pest-control companies should ask for non-toxic alternatives and also take steps to seal up entry points into buildings and pick up litter that could attract rodents.

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