Spotted Eagle Owl Post Image

Rat Poisons & Owls

There are unfortunately many rat poisons on the market that are not environmentally-friendly and if the dead rodents are eaten by other animals (owls, and even cats and dogs), they could die from secondary poisoning. The poisons could also be harmful to children.

Dead Easy along with BirdLife South Africa does not promote the use of poisons to eradicate rats, but rather the use of biological control methods or mechanical ways to kill these rodents.

Mechanical Control Methods

With regards to mechanical control methods, there are a number of products on the market which will kill rodents. Ordinary spring traps are one option, but not everyone likes using this method. These traps also have to be set in areas where they will not catch non-target animals (including wild birds).

An efficient product is the Rat Zapper, this device is very target specific. Rodents are enticed into a trap in which they are killed by a quick but powerful electrical shock. The Rat Zapper uses four “D” Cell batteries and can kill up to 20 rodents with one set of batteries. It is also easy to use, portable, reusable and one does not have to handle the dead rats. For more information about the product and how to order it, please see our products.

Biological Control Methods

All of the above-mentioned solutions are however temporary and do not provide long-term solutions to controlling rodents in cities. We should use biological control methods to control rodents in cities, with the most important control agent being the Barn Owl. These owls have adapted well to cities and can contribute significantly to the control of rats and mice.

Barn Owls raise up to eight chicks during one breeding event. During the nesting period of 44-55 days, four chicks require about 34 kg of food which is the equivalent of 1700 small mice and rats (thus 3400 rodents if there were eight owl chicks!). In years of food abundance, Barn Owls may even breed twice, which means that one pair of Barn Owls might catch more than 6000 rodents during that breeding season! There is surely no better way to control rodents!

The Spotted Eagle Owl is a skilled rat killer. Danelle Murray / CC BY-SA

The Spotted Eagle-Owl is also at home in our cities, and it has a more varied diet – eating rodents as well as large numbers of insects. How do you attract owls to your area? Owls, like all other birds, will be encouraged to remain in an area if they have food and security. There are clearly enough rodents in most cities to maintain many pairs of owls.

Owls, however, have to run the gauntlet in cities. Just one person using poisons irresponsibly will kill a pair of owls in a suburb. Clearly, if we want owls to persist in our cities, we need to ensure that they do not suffer the fate of poisons.

Owls can also be attracted to cities by putting up owl nest boxes, and more information on owl boxes is available at https://www.birdlife.org.za/old-navigation/owl-boxes/

Want to learn more on what poison labels mean and how to choose low environmental impact poisons? Click here.


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