Ventura County Public Works Agency Study Shows Owls and Hawks Can Be More Effective Than Poisons for Rodent Control

Raptor Pilot Study for Levee Protection is first to quantify the impact of raptors on ground squirrel damage at a levee

VENTURA COUNTY, Calif., 2018-Jan-31 — /EPR Network/ — The Ventura County Public Works Agency (VCPWA) has demonstrated that hawks and owls can be more effective than poisons for controlling rodent damage. Earlier this month, VCWPA presented data from its Raptor Study for levee Protection on using hawks and owls to control rodents, showing that raptor-friendly habitats reduce ground squirrel burrowing damage by 50 percent when compared to using anticoagulant rodenticides. The VCPWA study marks the first time any agency has quantified the impact of birds of prey on rodents in public works projects.

In the Ventura County area, there is heightened awareness of the dangers of secondary poisoning from rodenticides when a target rodent is consumed by a higher predator. Deceased bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions in the area have been found with anticoagulant rodenticide residues in their blood. Accordingly, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors has directed all county agencies to discontinue the use of these rodenticides on County property with the exception of flood control facilities where there was previously no effective alternatives to control rodents. The Raptor Pilot Study for Levee Protection results show that installing and maintaining perches, owl boxes and nesting stands could eliminate the need for applying anticoagulant rodenticides at flood control facilities.

As part of the Raptor Pilot Study, VCPWA staff installed 14 raptor perches, one hawk nesting platform, and one owl nesting box along the Revolon Slough in Oxnard, which consists of flood control levees that have been plagued by burrowing rodents. During the 17-month research period, the staff recorded 50 percent less burrow damage to the levee where perches were installed while observing Red-tailed Hawks, and other local hawks and owls using the perches and hunting.

Expansion of the Raptor Pilot Study into a full program in underway and includes building raptor structures at other flood control facilities, including owl nest boxes. It is essential for public health and safety that flood control facilities are protected from burrowing rodents. Rodents can cause significant damage and even failure of levees, earth dams and other flood control channels. A ground squirrel tunnel can be 35 feet long, and a single gopher is capable of moving about one ton of earth every year.

“We believe the VCPWA Raptor Pilot Study is the first to quantify the dramatic impact of attracting raptors and finds a natural, chemical-free way to control burrowing rodents,” said Karl Novak, VCPWA Deputy Director of Operations and Maintenance. “We think that comprehensive monitoring and continued expansion of the raptor program will result in cost effective and environmentally safe rodent control throughout our watersheds.”

For interviews and photo opportunities, please contact Denise Bean-White at DBW@consortium-media.com call 805-654-1564 ext. 111

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