Did you know… Rat poison kills more than rats

Rodenticides (rat poison) are not only killing the intended targets such as rats and house mice. Every year in BC there are documented cases of owls, hawks and other wildlife that have died as a result of eating rodents that have eaten rat poison. Rodenticides are designed to be slow-reacting so that rats and mice do not associate getting sick and dying from eating the poison. Due to these “slow reacting compounds,” and it can take up to 5-7 days before a rodent gets sick and eventually dies. During this lag-time, there is a risk that the rodent will get eaten by a hungry predator, especially if the rodent is becoming slow and lethargic due to poisoning.

There are different types of rodenticides, but the main ones are what we call anticoagulant rodenticides. The active ingredients brodifacoum, difethialone and bromadiolone are very toxic and persistent — one feeding is sufficient to not only kill rodents but also secondary poison predators.

Rodent Control
If possible, avoid the use of rodenticides. Consider preventive measures such as removal of food sources and blocking access to the inside of structures. Rodenticides should only be used as a last resort and application should carefully follow the instructions on the product label.

Preventive Measures
• Removal of open food sources for pests
• Safe storage of food products and or waste management
• Block possible access to the inside of structures
• Keep pet food indoors
• Keep grass short within 1m surrounding barn
• Removal of debris

For more information about this topic and alternatives to rat poison, check out Raptors are the Solution.

Did you know… Great-horned owls are one of the earliest breeding birds in BC

Great-horned owl, approximately 40 days old, still covered in thick baby down. At 2 months, it will start to shed the down as adult feathers grow in. While the horns are still small, the talons are fully developed as these provide defense against predators. Great-horned owl talons take a force of 28 pounds to open them.   Photo by Barb Coote

You might have heard a pair calling back and forth in early January which is when they typically begin courtship. Their deep “hoot hoot” call is the classic owl call that everyone recognizes.

Great-horned owls like many other owls don’t make their own nests but rather adopt old stick nests made by other raptors, squirrels, or they nest in big tree cavities or snags.

The female typically starts laying her eggs in mid-February, often when there is still snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures.  The female lays on average between 1-4 eggs and incubates the eggs for 32-35 days before they hatch. The number of eggs laid each year has been shown to correlate with the availability of their main prey, which is small mammals.

Raising Great-horned owlets is no small feat, and it takes about 2.5-3 months after hatching before the young ones are able to fly. Like any predator, the young ones need to learn how to hunt and capture their own prey, so even though they are able to fly at 3 months, they are still dependent on their parents for food while they slowly acquire hunting skills. As the young ones become more independent and capable of capturing their own prey they will leave the parents’ territory and find their home, this usually happens in early- to mid-fall.

The oldest free living Great-horned owl documented was 27 years and 7 months!

Check out this webcam of a Great-horned owl nesting site from the Owl Research Institute in Carlo, Montana. The owls are around but they haven’t started nesting yet. They typically start mid-February and you can hear the owls calling at night.

Tiny Toadlets use the Tunnel!

On July 7th, the same day as we started our sub-adult Western toad road surveys, we installed a camera in the tunnel so that we could count the number of sub-adult toads that used the tunnel during the migration.  The camera was in the tunnel from July 7th – 20th, and took a picture every minute, resulting in 13,119 photos to sort through after the migration was over. Thanks to Lisa and Sasha, who patiently counted all of the toads seen on the photos, we documented a total of 34,915 sub-adult toads using the tunnel!

We tried a new and improved camera set-up this year, and while it worked better, we can’t directly compare numbers between last year and this year. But we are very pleased and excited that so many sub-adult toads used the tunnel rather than the road. There were also other critters seen on the pictures such as a skunk, possum, and a deer mouse. Interestingly, the photos also revealed several people looking into the tunnel to see how the toads were making out. We discovered that after a human was seen at the entrance, fewer toads used the tunnel until about 15 minutes after the person left… an interesting insight into their behaviour!

We are now working with our partners on ideas on how we can improve the directional fencing for next year to ensure that the tunnel captures even more toads and the always important but rarely seen breeding adults. Stay tuned!

Thanks to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation for funding our monitoring work of the tunnel!

HCTF

Ever Wonder What it’s Like to be a Summer Student with FVC?

As a team of three summer students working for the Fraser Valley Conservancy we had many interesting experiences. While a large part of our job was removing Himalayan blackberry, a necessity for any conservation work in the Lower Mainland, we also took part in a variety of different projects and picked up new skills along the way!

Our crew began in May conducting snail surveys at the Three Creeks site in Abbotsford. We learned to identify some local species, specifically the red-listed Oregon forest snail and the blue-listed Pacific sideband snail. We were lucky to find several of each in our plots, as well as a very friendly ensatina salamander.

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Pacific sideband snail

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Common ensatina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then travelled to the man-made Peppindale Wetlands in Aldergrove where our crew was taught how to complete topographic surveys. We surveyed wetland plants and also searched the area for bullfrogs, looking for the large egg masses and listening for the unmistakable plopping sounds made by young frogs.

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Removing invasive American bullfrog egg masses.

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Conducting topographic survey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our time at these sites we began work with the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition, a partner organization with the FVC. At their sites in Yarrow, we helped to survey fish at a stream in the Yarrow Eco Village. The crawfish were definitely the trickiest to retrieve though I am happy to say that we all survived without injury!

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Our crew of three surveying fish in Yarrow.

While our other experiences were definitely memorable, we all agreed that our favourite part of the summer was working by Ryder Lake in Chilliwack during the mass migration of juvenile western toads. We were amazed to see thousands of these dime-sized toads travel across roads from their breeding ponds to their forest habitats. During the migration, we assisted with toad surveys and learned how to hold and measure these little amphibians. Our crew also helped to install directional fences to corral the toads towards the FVC’s new amphibian crossing structure dubbed the “toad tunnel”.

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Western toads caught on the wrong side of the fence using an “escape hatch” to crawl to safety.

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Sub-adult Western toad who has made it safely through the tunnel to the forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The field experiences and learning opportunities this summer were priceless. The knowledge, industry contacts and hands-on experience will help our careers and has left us with some great memories.

Snail surveys at Three Creeks!

Earlier this summer we spent 4 days surveying for endangered snails at our newly named Three Creeks property in East Abbotsford as part of a mark recapture study we are doing.

Our total count for the survey was:

Pacific Sideband: 19
Oregon Forestsnail: 35

These snails are both at-risk species in BC. The blue-listed Pacific Sideband is the largest land snail in BC, and can sometimes be found climbing the trunks of trees! Pacific Sideband snails are typically dark with a light band, but can be “blonde”- meaning the shell is light-colored and the band is missing or hard to see. The red-listed Oregon Forestsnail is often associated with patches of stinging nettle.

 

                                 
                              A “blonde” Pacific Sideband at Three Creeks!                     An Oregon Forestsnail at Three Creeks!

 

We have found that our Three Creeks property is also home to other fascinating snail species, so we have put together a simple key to help you identify species in your own backyard!

(Fun fact: Lancetooth snails are omnivorous– they eat earthworms, slugs and snails… including their own species!)

Click here to see the snail key!

The key contains the 5 species we found at Three Creeks but BC has over 95 species of land snails! For more information and a comprehensive list please visit E-fauna BC’s list of terrestrial snails or refer to the Land Snails of British Columbia handbook.

 

Entering the final stretch of the toad migration!

 

 

The number of toads crossing the roads in Ryder Lake is substantially lower now than at the peak of the migration. Therefore, we have taken down the voluntary detour signs for this season. Thank you to all who have followed the detour route! We will be continuing to monitor the migration and will post more updates as we get them.

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Check out the color variations of the migrating Western Toads!

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A successful river clean-up day, thanks to volunteers!

The second Chilliwack Vedder River Clean-up Day of the year (hosted by the Chilliwack Vedder River Clean-up Society) proved to be a huge success this morning! Our staff and volunteers removed two full bags of garbage, as well as larger debris from the banks of our adopted section of the river to help keep it sparkling clean. We also spotted a few interesting native species along the way, such as a Pacific Sideband snail and an adult Northern Red-legged frog!

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Chilliwack River Clean-up Day Saturday July 19th

River Clean-up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come join the FVC and other groups to clean up the banks of the Chilliwack river on Saturday, July 19th! It is a family friendly event that helps keep garbage out of the river and provides an opportunity to enjoy the scenery along our adopted section of this spectacular river.

  • This event is hosted by the Chilliwack Vedder River Cleanup Society.                                                                                                                                 
  • Registration starts at 8:30am Saturday July 19th, at the Great Blue Heron Reserve (5200 Sumas Prairie Road, in Chilliwack). We will head out at 9:30 am to our section of the river (between Sleese Road and the Tamahi Bridge) and will be done by noon.
  • Please ensure you dress appropriately for the weather!
  • Clean-up bags and tools will be provided.
  • If you have any questions feel free to call 604-625-0066 or email: meg@fraservalleyconservancy.ca.