Have you heard the owls lately? On Salt Spring, you are most likely to hear the Barred Owl or the Great-horned Owl.
But Salt Spring is also home to three other species of owl, which are currently considered rare and at risk:
- The Western Screech-owl (kennicottii subspecies) is one of the rarest owls now on Salt Spring. They are Threatened by the federal government and of Special Concern (formerly Vulnerable) by the provincial government.
- The Barn Owl is federally Threatened and provincially Endangered.
- The Northern Pygmy-owl is Vulnerable, according to the province.
Why are owls threatened? Numerous changes to habitat and prey, such as:
- habitat changes or loss—old dead trees and snags provide important sites for nesting and roosting for many owls; when they are removed this affects breeding and population growth
- displacement by other owl species when habitat changes
- decrease in owl prey due to house cats and rodenticides
- consumption of rodenticides, which are powerful anticoagulants that can cause numerous problems for owls
A study in 2009 found that 70% of 164 deceased owls had at least one rodenticide in their livers.
So, what can you do as an island resident to help owl conservation? You can:
- avoid using rodenticides, but if unavoidable, apply in closed or contained areas only, where owls and other animals can’t access
- clean up garbage that attracts rodents
- usetraps as an alternative to rodenticide
You can also help protect habitat on your land by establishing a conservation covenant or donating land to create a legacy and protect wildlife habitat in the long term.
Lastly, you can donate to the SSI Conservancy to support our ongoing work to protect and manage wildlife habitat and natural places on the island.