PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — In Philippe Park, people love to stare through the branches of the magnificent oak trees.
“They have their own paparazzi, they’re very popular in town, lots of people come, they’re on Instagram and Facebook,” said Terrie Thomas, a volunteer with Birds in Helping Hands. “Everybody adores the owls, they’ve named them, they know the parents.”
Photographers and bird watchers alike hope to get a glimpse, and many have, of the family of owls that live in the park. But, that admiration is in jeopardy.
“These magnificent raptors don’t deserve this,” Thomas said.
Thomas explained two owls have died recently from rat poison.
“Last week, I was here on Thursday evening taking pictures of them and I was watching the mom feed them rats. I had a really bad feeling,” she said. “And, on Friday morning, one of the photographers found one of the babies, actually the largest of the babies, dead on the ground.”
Shortly after, the mom was seen wading through the bay. Barbara Walker, the President of Moccasin Lake Raptor Sanctuary got her out and attempted to save her, but couldn’t.
“Right before she died, she called for her mate and it was so sad. I think that will be with me forever,” said Walker.
They said rodenticide is to blame and that boxes of the poison can be found just about anywhere. She took photos of the boxes outside a city park and city museum. She said a common symptom of rodenticide poisoning is dehydration.
“If you are a city, a facility, school or retirement facility, a hospital, a big box store, whatever you happen to be, if you have rodenticide boxes out you need to go and take them in right now,” said Walker.
A spokesperson for the Pinellas County Parks Department said, "Rodenticides are not used in Philippe park, and the park is not the source of any suspected poison associated with these owl deaths."
These bird activists said the poison kills in a chain reaction. When one animal dies, if another animal eats that animal they will be poisoned too.
“We need them to change this at the state level. That’s what California did and it helped. It would be great if we could do that here in Florida too,” Walker said.
Thomas said while glue traps are not the answer, there are alternatives to rat poison that can take care of a rodent problem.