There are more barred owls in N.S., but they're taking a hit this winter
If you've seen more owls lately, there's a reason for that.
Wildlife experts say last year's weather is the likely reason for an increase of barred owls in Nova Scotia this winter.
Now, a rehabilitation centre says the amount of owls getting into collisions with vehicles is on the rise as well.
There's double the amount of owls being treated at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre compared to last year.
The seven owls were involved in collisions with cars and the centre's director says that's likely because there's more of them hanging around roads and highways.
“There could be a couple of factors,” said Murdo Messer, the director of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. “One, there could be more trash at the side of the road that rodents are getting into and that attracts the owls. It could also be that the barred owl population is doing well, meaning there's more of them around.”
It's believed a large number of barred owls survived last winter because of the lack of snow, making it easier for them to find food.
And since owls only come out at night, these wildlife experts are advising drivers on being extra cautious.
“When the time changes, and goes back an hour, it puts the rush hour right into their path,” said Brenda Boates of the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. “They like to hunt at dusk and dawn, so they get put in the path and then people see them more and cars hit them more.”
Owls are also well camouflaged and they'll often land on the ground to get their meal.
Messer says owls eat rodents, so when motorists litter, not only are rodents drawn to roadways, owls are too.
“Well, it's hard on the animals and you know, it's not a pleasant thing to see,” Messer said. “If you like nature like I do, to see all that trash in the environment is a horrible thing to see.”
Experts say if you happen to find an injured owl, it's important to call the provincial Department of Natural Resources or a rehabilitation centre.
“We've lost a couple, the head trauma can be quite severe,” Boates said. “It takes a fair bit of time to recover from too, it's like a serious concussion, so there's brain swelling, there can be neurological damage as well and sometimes they lose their ability to eat.”
That's why these wildlife experts want everyone to understand the importance of keeping litter off the ground, so that owls - and all wildlife - can live and hunt in their habitats away from high-traffic areas.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Suzette Belliveau.