SAFETY HARBOR, Fla — Four out of five great horned owls that live in Philippe Park in Safety Harbor have died. Activists believe their deaths were caused by eating rats poisoned with Rodenticide. We first told you about the deaths two deaths a month ago.
Normally tranquility can be found in Philippe Park but, right now people who go there for peace are there out of concern and worry as rehabbers attempt to rescue the last remaining owlet still alive after her mom, dad and two siblings died.
Based on necropsy reports, they said Rodenticide is the likely cause of their deaths.
“These owls are beautiful, they’re somewhat rare, they’re the apex predators in the area, and there’s just something about them that the community loves,” said Joey Ayoub, the mayor of Safety Harbor.
It’s around-the-clock work to keep track of the last remaining owlet. The community calls her Daisy and they say if she is captured, she likely won’t be released back into the wild.
“We don’t have a sustainable environment for this owl to live in considering the Rodenticide situation. We do not know where it’s coming from,” said Cathy Stebbins, a volunteer and animal activist.
Rodenticide is a type of rat poison and activists say at this point, you can buy it just about anywhere and find it behind businesses and organizations all over.
“This may take care of the rodents but it’s having a devastating effect on the owls and other natural animals,” Ayoub said.
That’s because even when the rat dies the poison continues to kill anything that eats it — that includes great horned owls like the ones in Philippe Park. Pinellas County told ABC Action News there are no Rodenticide boxes inside Philippe park, but experts say these birds can travel long distances for a meal, which means they could be getting poisoned rats from just about anywhere.
Ayoub said as soon as the city heard of the first owl’s death, it removed a total of 20 boxes scattered on and around city properties.
Thursday he plans to take those efforts even further to local businesses.
“We have a group of volunteers that are going to go door-to-door canvassing the area trying to spread the word,” he said.
The city will also hand out inserts in residents’ water bills to alert them about the danger of Rodenticide.
“We could certainly get rid of all of the Rodenticide if we all did so voluntarily,” said Barbara Walker, the President of Tampa Bay Raptor Rescue.
She and so many others want to grab the attention of state lawmakers because they’d like to see the poison banned.
“This is the centuries DDT, and we need to and we need to get rid of it now because we need those predators,” she said.
California banned second-generation Rodenticide last year after several wild animals suffered from secondary poison. A bill in Massachusetts aimed at doing the same thing.
“This is a problem that’s been happening all over the United States so this isn’t just a state-by-state issue,” said Stebbins. “It really ideally would be addressed at the federal level.”
ABC Action News reached out to Representative Traci Koster and Chris Sprowls, along with State Senator Ed Hooper to see if this is an issue they’d be willing to take up during the session next year. We’re waiting to hear back.