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Letter: Sweetwater Mesa Murder

Owls, hawks and bobcats have been disappearing from around the Sweetwater Mesa home of James Smith.

I live in the last house at the end of Sweetwater Mesa surrounded by the mountains and wildlife. For years I have placed feeder mice on a stand and a female red tailed hawk would swoopdown from the mountain top and take it. Hundreds of people havebeen thrilled watching this.

Every Spring the hawk would disappear at nesting time and then show up later teaching the young to hunt. This year it did not return. I raise mice in my garage for the hawk and they kept producing. Not knowing what to do with all the mice, I put a couple out at dusk and last month four great horned owls showed up, two babies and their parents.

When darkness arrived I could hear them hooting across the canyon and then they would land on my chimneys. They would be silent in flight and appear like a ghost. Soon two of them would take a mouse from my gloved hand. The owl count dropped from four down to two and I figured the youngsters had been forced to seek their own territory.

Shortly, the count dropped from two down to one. I did not understand that change. Three days ago no owls came. I realized there no longer was any hooting as well. I believe the raptors have been poisoned.

D Con is a commonly use rodent poison. It is an anticoagulant which kills by causing internal bleeding. It takes a couple days to kill a rat and if an owl eats the weakened rat the poison keeps on killing and the owl dies.

It would be easy to not notice what is happening on Sweetwater Mesa, but I had a remarkable contact with the owls and saw all of this happen in about six weeks. I then noticed the disappearance of hawks as well. They used to fly in pairs and call to each other. Now there is silence. A large male bobcat used to catch gofers in front of my house. It is gone.

Hiking up behind my house I have found the remains of two owls.

D Con is sold at CVS but not at Malibu Lumber or Ralphs. I think the problem is one of education. There are many ways to catch mice not involving secondary poisoning. Anybody using an exterminator should ask if all products they use are safe for wildlife. The irony is poisoning a few mice can kill owls, which can catch hundreds of mice.

James Smith
Sweetwater Mesa

Katherine Row August 19, 2012 at 03:09 PM
This is so sad. I've been lucky to have discovered in my yard the corpses of rats that a neighbor poisoned before my dog did. Please everyone, use mechanical rat traps or have a professional do away with them without poison. The life you save may be that of your neighbor's dog.
Tema Merback August 19, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have beautiful red tailed hawks that fly over our home & owls that hoot in the night. It would be devastating to lose nattures beauty for such a lack of care. I will certainly check to make sure that we never use such a poison!
Wendi Werner August 19, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I have donated my time at the the California Wildlife Center and you can't imagine how many animals come in from secondary poisoning. Please people, do not use ANY KIND of herbicides, rodenticides or pesticides. Keeping them in and around your house can harm you, as well.
Sophie Kidian August 19, 2012 at 04:25 PM
This is what we need to do is inform. I am sure that if most knew that killing a rat could spread to the beautiful wildlife that has lived in our mountains forever and also our beloved pets would ask CVS and our neighbors to stop this type of extermination. When CVS takes it off their shelves, they can inform their customers what harm it can do and make a difference in their communities. Thank you for this sad and important observation of the hawks and owls and sharing.
Susan Tellem August 19, 2012 at 05:28 PM
I am so sad to hear of this because it is a horrible way for animals to die. We have lived in Malibu for 15 years and have never used poison anywhere on our property - there are so many way to keep mice at bay - snakes do a great job but then people want to kill them too. There are many organic ways to keep predators away - one that works well for mice is buying mothballs or mothball hangers from CVS. Hang in places where mice live, and since they hate the smell they will leave. We also use an organic pest control company to kill ants. It's smart, caring and healthier for humans too.
Jackie Robbins August 19, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Thanks for getting the word out. Let's all contribute to keeping the whole eco-system in tact. Nature is our most rewarding and gratifying asset in Malibu, and in our world.
J. Flo August 19, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Horrible, horrible, horrible. People - we've all go to wake up to the ripple effect of our actions. I also think our beloved dog was killed from gopher poison from a neighbors yard. Do you know if you drop those pellets in the hole, gophers can push them out into a neighbors yard??? Right up on the surface for their dogs, cats, hawks, owls to eat. Or if they consume the body. Please stop poisoning our animals - wild or domestic! The animal you may end up killing could be your own . . . .
Robert Coutts August 20, 2012 at 04:35 AM
What a beautiful inter-face between people and the wild. I am so impressed with your action and so saddened with it's apparent demise. It's worse than you think. You may possibly be following my Patch blog "The Lion's Eye". Mountain Lions are at the top of the food chain and eat what they want. They also consume all the poisons that are in every level below them. Several lions have been found with ant-coagulant rodenticides in their blood. P-17 died not that long ago and had them in her blood stream. P-3 and P-4 bled to death at the side of the freeway in the Simi hills, their bodies covered with sores.
Candace Brown August 20, 2012 at 06:44 AM
From day one, Malibu Lumber coragaeously refused to sell rat poison, even though their D-Con and other poison reps insisted that there was no way that poison could "travel up the food chain"! Please, everyone support this hardware store. Owned by the Anawalts. Lovely, long time locals! I've have not seen a raccoon in Latigo Canyon for at least three years. I know which of my neighbors use rodenticides. And they do not want to hear about the suffering of wildlife. They just hate the fact that they might have to clean up their trash because they were too lazy to secure their trash can with a bungee cord. They would just rather kill. Certain people should simply live in condos or apartments in cities. It is heartbreaking...
Bob Perkins DDS August 20, 2012 at 07:17 AM
Great article! I would have never made the connection. Most of us are not educated in this and we figure if it is sold in the stores, it must be o.k. to use. Now I know to ask the right questions. Education is the key and I'm glad you shared this with us, James!
Jim Smith August 20, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Jim Smith - Be sure to view the seven second video . It is my 8 year old grandson Sean. The owl dropped the mouse and the kids are looking for it . Click the box in the lower right corner and you can see it full screen
Robert Coutts August 21, 2012 at 04:31 AM
From a neighbor Just talked to a couple of guys contracted by the Park Service to clear Castor Bean from a hillside above us. Ok but they were also spraying a herbicide. They told me it was "Garlon". I'm investigating it now. Appears that parks and railroads use it to kill weeds. Great! The plants are on a path that the deer use to get to our property in the evening. The workers said it was OK for animals. Right, like Roundup? They could have just manually dug up the plant roots and all. I do it all the time. No need for hericides especially on park land. What are they thinking? Time to post this on the Patch.
research feeder mice August 21, 2012 at 07:42 AM
Wake up call James Smith. You are treating these wild animals like circus animals, feeding them captive bred mice, probably bought from a pet store bred in non sanitary conditions and exposed to pathogens that wild animals are not tolorent to. It is more likely that the owls you found died from ingesting the mice you fed them caring pathogens they have no immunity to than they died from pesticides. But all the smart "green" people probably will just blame some easy mean target like pesticides rather than the nice guy on the hill feeding wild animals mice from a pet shop... and releasing them into the wild none the less. Keep it up big guy, your likely the problem your complaining about....
research feeder mice August 21, 2012 at 07:44 AM
Wake up call James Smith. You are treating these wild animals like circus animals, feeding them captive bred mice, probably bought from a pet store bred in non sanitary conditions and exposed to pathogens that wild animals are not tolorent to. It is more likely that the owls you found died from ingesting the mice you fed them caring pathogens they have no immunity to than they died from pesticides. But all the smart "green" people probably will just blame some easy mean target like pesticides rather than the nice guy on the hill feeding wild animals mice from a pet shop... and releasing them into the wild none the less. Keep it up big guy, your likely the problem your complaining about.... Thanks for teaching your grandson good stewardship of the environment. Why don't you go leave some food out for the coyotes and racoons now.
Cort Day August 21, 2012 at 04:54 PM
PS...of course if everyone would remove their Castor Bean plants on their property that spread seeds into the park herbicides wouldn't be necessary.
Linda Rivera August 21, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I am a neighbor of Jim Smith's. he has been feeding mice to these birds for years and they have been thriving and multiplying, this is a new phenomena. No need to go ad hominem on him, he is a wonderful man and a loving protector of the Sweetwater Mesa hills. We had the great treat of seeing a fledgling up close minutes after it left it's nest, we haven't heard or seen him or his parents in a couple of weeks, we pray they didn't die due to poisoned rodents.
Renee Vogel September 04, 2012 at 05:44 AM
I live in Sweetwater Canyon, just across the ravine and we have seen several owls on the telephone wires behind our house in the past weeks. There was a big, beautiful one out there this evening. Hopefully they will continue to thrive in our area.

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