Shire hears owl-friendly call

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
A pair of Masked owls photographed during research for the campaign.
Camera IconA pair of Masked owls photographed during research for the campaign. Credit: Steve Castan

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River council has thrown its support behind the region’s owl-friendly initiative, which is already making a difference to the region’s wildlife.

The campaign, initiated by ex-Nature Conservation Margaret River chairman Boyd Wykes, pictured inset, and former Margaret River Chamber of Commerce president and lawyer Steve Castan, aims to work with businesses and residents to reduce the use of second- generation poisons, which unintentionally cause havoc in the local environment.

At a briefing last week before the council voted unanimously to get involved, Dr Wykes outlined research showing it was not just the region’s precious owl population that would potentially be saved by the program.

Dr Wykes said early research was crucial to establishing Margaret River boasted more owls than previously imagined.

Common rat poisons used to destroy pests meant owls relying on rodents as their main food source were accumulating sometimes fatal levels of chemicals. But last week Dr Wykes said a range of other animals were now also found to be ingesting those poisons, and some insects and reptiles — which were unaffected — were also poisoning their natural predators when consumed.

“It would be an extraordinary win for any of our rodenticide retailers to remove the worst products from their shelves,” Dr Wykes said.

“However, we are thankful to have a growing number of ‘hero’ outlets display our signage and distribute our advice leaflets, backed up by passionate staff providing informed advice. They are reporting a significant shift in customer awareness and shift in sales toward first-generation anticoagulants and control measures other than rodenticides.”

The owl-friendly campaign seeks to educate pest controllers and big agencies such as the Shire to minimise harm to wildlife.

“Formal backing by council of our aim to establish our region as an ‘owl-friendly’ haven may make all the difference,” Dr Wykes said.

Environment landcare services co-ordinator John McKinney said the Shire was proud to back the campaign to protect “non-target animals”. “By publicly declaring the region owl-friendly, we hope to discourage the use of these rodenticides,” he said.

Some of the animals at risk included masked and barn owls, boobooks and tawny frogmouths, quenda, possums, chuditches and phascogales.

The campaign also features in a short film, which will be available as a touchscreen display at the WA Museum from tomorrow.

The group will also host an event on November 27 at the Heart from 5.30-7pm. Register at

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