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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

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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