Masked Owl Photo S Castan

Masked Owl Photo S Castan


Alerted by Edith Cowan University researcher Mike Lohr that Boobooks are succumbing to secondary poisoning from eating rats and mice as they die from baits (rodenticides), three Margaret River region Masked Owls were also sent for testing, one found fatally injured from unknown cause and two hit by cars. All three proved to have high rodenticide exposure with one at near lethal levels.

Just as we were finding and celebrating our region as a strong-hold for the charismatic Masked Owl, we realised that people are inadvertently killing this dedicated rodent predator through secondary poisoning from rat baits.

Owl Friendly rodenticide campaign featured in the new WA Boola Bardip (many stories) Museum

Featured in the Wild Life Gallery is a punchy short film ‘Who is in our backyard?’ about  discovery of the peri-urban Margaret River Masked Owl population and our campaign to protect  wildlife from rodenticide poisoning. This and other inspirational  ‘Linking Landscape’ community conservation stories from across Gondwanalink can be viewed at:



masked owl corpse

Masked Owl corpse Photo B Wykes

In a PhD study at Edith Cowan University, Mike Lohr used Boobooks as a readily accessible, ‘sentinel’ nocturnal species to test for levels of rodenticides, with freshly dead birds from various causes contributed from across the south west including from Margaret River.

The results from analysis of livers were shocking, with 74 per cent containing a range of rodenticide chemicals. Even where not directly resulting in death, many levels were sufficiently high to likely have contributed to death from apparently unrelated factors such as vehicle impact, disease and starvation.

ECU researcher Dr Mike Lohr’s study of rodenticides in Boobooks set alarm bells ringing

ECU researcher Dr Mike Lohr’s study of rodenticides in Boobooks set alarm bells ringing.

Many day as well as night birds and mammals are at risk of ingesting rodent poison by preying on live and dead rats and mice as well as reptiles and insects that access the baits.

This was less of a problem when products were based on ‘first generation anticoagulants’ such as warfarin and coumatetralyl. These baits need to be eaten in several meals to be fatal, can be effectively metabolised by our wildlife when ingested through secondary pathways, and poisoning can be treated effectively with Vitamin K.

However now poisons based on ‘Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides’ (SGARs) such as brodifacoum and bromodialone dominate retail shelves. These are promoted as killing rodents with a single dose but that is also the fate of wildlife or pets that directly ingest the poison, as veterinarians attest. Furthermore, the rodent still takes days to die from internal bleeding, in which time they can ingest several ‘single dose’ meals and are easy prey. SGARs ingested through primary and secondary pathways are not readily metabolised, persisting and accumulating in the livers of wildlife and pets, and not responsive to treatment.

Sadly, the finding that rodenticides are showing up in local wildlife was not unexpected because problems arising from SGARs have already been identified throughout the world for children, pets and wildlife. Several developed countries have banned or restricted use of the same second generation poisons that are sold without regulation by Australian supermarkets, hardware stores and farm suppliers.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority is conducting a review of the status of anticoagulant rodenticides on the basis of concerns for worker exposure, public health and environmental safety.

Rat problems, owl solutions

Some limb dislocation and pulverising is needed before a fledgling Masked Owl swallows a rat whole for dinner in this video clip:


raising awareness

Raising awareness Photo K Majer

This is where you come in.

Make the right choice when controlling rats and mice.

Mike Lohr’s research indicated that rodenticide poisoning of Boobooks is highest around our human habitation rather than in farmland. The chemicals identified in the owl livers included those in products on unrestricted sale to the general public and those under stricter control, to be used by commercial operators. Advice on

To achieve an ‘owl friendly’ Margaret River, we at the local level need to rethink our approach to rodent control at outlets, in advice given for health and food safety requirements, and in management undertaken on public and commercial properties by managers and their pest control agencies.  And most of all in our homes and around our residential properties, our sheds and chook pens.

Masked Owl item ABC news November 2020

The Margaret River Masked Owls were considered newsworthy as a result of a game-changing declaration by the AMR Council to declare the Shire ‘Owl Friendly’ in support of our campaign to protect local wildlife from poisoning by unrestricted sale and use of second generation anticoagulant rodenticides.