You’re not the only night owl in this city

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When you think of Vancouver’s nightlife many visuals may come to mind. But real, live owls – silently hunting our parks and back lanes – are likely not one of those images!

A beautiful barred owl has been spotted hanging out around the Vancouver Art Gallery, and East Van artist June Hunter was lucky to photograph a recent visit.

The VAG barred owl. Photo by June Hunter
The VAG barred owl. Photo by June Hunter

Despite being pestered by a flock of noisy crows, the lovely owl managed to get some rest in one of the big trees.

This town ain't big enough for both of us. Photo by June Hunter
This town ain’t big enough for both of us. Photo by June Hunter

I’ve since heard from other people that owl sightings are not entirely uncommon downtown.

Why downtown?

One reason is that our feathered friends can’t resist the draw of our (growing) urban rodent population.

Unfortunately, though, this ample food supply is also working against them. Rat poison is everywhere in this city, and dying rats make easy pickings for owls. The rat poison also affects owls and other non-target wildlife, leading to gruesome injuries and death.

Is there a win-win solution here somewhere? Can we support urban raptors to help make a dent in the city’s rat population? That may be part of the solution, but we still need to do a better job keeping our compost in rat-proof bins and keeping our lanes clean. Some cities are even experimenting with birth control for rats.

If you, like me, would prefer to see more owls than rats in our city, secure your compost, only use a “first-generation” rat poison (if at all), keep hollow trees standing where feasible, and build an owl nest box.

And the next time you’re enjoying the nightlife downtown, keep your eyes open for your fellow night owls!

Photo by June Hunter
Photo by June Hunter

Find me on twitter for more stories about nature in the city @Nature_City