pot farms for poisoning of threatened owls
Herald and News 1/12/18
SAN FRANCISCO — Rat poison is contaminating threatened northern
spotted owls in California forests, and marijuana farms appear
to be to blame, according to a study published Thursday.
The study published in the journal Avian Conservation and
Ecology focused on owls in Northern California’s Humboldt,
Mendocino and Del Norte counties, part of the so-called Emerald
Triangle, where remote farms — many in old-growth forests —
produce much of the marijuana grown for the U.S. black market.
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, and the
California Academy of Sciences tested 10 northern spotted owls
found dead in the region. Seven of the owls tested positive for
rat poison, used by pot farmers to keep rodents away from their
irrigation systems and crops.
The northern spotted owls are listed as threatened under state
and federal endangered species acts.
Forty percent of another species, barred owls, also tested
positive for the rat poison.
Tissue samples of the barred owls were provided by researchers
carrying out a different study, the scientists said. The
species, originally from the U.S. East, are considered an
invasive species in the Northwest and a threat to spotted owls.
Study lead author Mourad Gabriel earlier carried out similar
research linking rat poison used by clandestine marijuana farms
to the deaths of fishers, a weasel-like forest predator that has
disappeared from half of its former range in the Pacific
Gabriel says he’s concerned that the poisoning of wildlife will
increase now that recreational marijuana is legal in California,
potentially driving the proliferation of pot farms.
California officials argue that legalization will allow them to
increase oversight and regulation of cannabis farms in fragile
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