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Barn owls are struggling. Some face being wiped out by the high speed rail link planned between London and the Midlands, but that’s just one of many dangers. The extreme weather over the last few years has killed thousands and the birds face ongoing threats from habitat loss.
On top of everything else, they are being poisoned, albeit not deliberately. Small rodents such as mice form the natural food of barn owls. When these rodents are poisoned in an attempt to reduce numbers, the owls eating the poisoned rodents die too. Although not yet fully quantified, poisoning may well be the number one threat to the species.
Unlike all the other problems, the overuse of rodenticides is easy to address. These poisons should be a measure of last resort, not first choice, and they should only be used by licensed, trained pest control officers.
Ask DEFRA to introduce proper regulation on rodent poisons as a matter of urgency.
We the undersigned ask that you take immediate action to stop barn owl numbers falling even further, starting with proper regulation of rodenticides. Poisoning appears to be one of the, if not the, major threat to the species, with the Barn Owl Trust finding that over 90% of dead owls contain rat poison.
In fact, this year has been one of the worst for barn owls on record and only about 1,000 breeding pairs remain in the UK although there should be at least four times that number. This pattern has been repeated all over Europe.
We understand that rodents can be a serious agricultural and domestic pest and that sometimes poison may be the only solution. However, it should be the last resort and only laid by certified professionals. At the moment, anybody can buy rodenticides and use them however they like, and the overuse of such chemicals is posing a major threat to barn owls and other wildlife, not to mention domestic pets. When a rodent problem emerges, trapping and exclusion should be the first lines of action and poison only used in emergencies or when there is a serious and urgent risk to human health.
We do not want to see yet another much-loved, and extremely useful, species disappear simply because of the careless use of pesticides.
Please take action on this issue immediately and introduce proper regulation for what are extremely dangerous chemicals.
Thank you for your attention.