The change of cooler weather heading into autumn typically signals an increase of owl patients at the BC SPCA’s Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre (Wild ARC). The higher number of these night-time hunters needing care showcases how dangerous this time of year can be for nocturnal wildlife.
This is a very risky time for owls, who like to hunt in low light. Wild ARC has seen an increase in owl patients, and more are sure to come as the daylight hours continue to dwindle.
“As the days get shorter and people commute to and from work in the dark, nocturnal animals like owls are also active at these times, hunting near roadsides for small rodents like mice and shrews,” says BC SPCA chief scientific officer Dr. Sara Dubois.
“As a result, they are at higher risk from vehicle collisions during this time of year, and we encourage those on the road to exercise extra caution when driving.”
It’s an effect that Wild ARC continues to see year after year. In 2019, this beautiful barred owl was found lying still at the side of the road in the Cordova Bay area, believed to be struck by a car while trying to forage for food. The owl suffered head trauma and a fractured leg, and like many owls in Wild ARC’s care, may take weeks to fully recover.
Scraps of food littered on the side of the road can draw out rodents, which in turn draws out birds hunting them for food. Animals can easily become habituated to learn that roadways are food sources, further increasing the risk of collision. To prevent injuries to wild animals and help keep roads safe, make sure that all trash, recyclables, and compost are disposed of properly.
Here are some further steps drivers can take to avoid collisions with wildlife:
- Pay attention to wildlife warning signs, as these do indicate wildlife collision hot spots;
- Stay within the recommended speed limit, and reduce your speed in areas of limited visibility;
- Be vigilant and scan the road shoulders for animals, particularly at dawn and dusk;
- Keep an eye out for shining eyes on the side of the road, highlighted by your headlights;
- Watch for flashing brake lights on the car ahead, possibly indicating wildlife on the road; and
- Do not honk or flash your lights at wildlife – rather than warning them away, this will only startle them or potentially cause them to panic and bolt into further danger