In the West Coast marijuana-growing region known as the Emerald Triangle, scientists want to know whether the rat poison spread around illegal pot plantations is killing northern spotted owls, a threatened species.
But because it is so rare to find a spotted owl dead in the forest, they will be looking at an invasive cousin owl from the East that has been pushing spotted owls out of their territory since the 1990s.
Mourad Gabriel, a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, said Tuesday they are testing 84 barred owls from Northern California killed in the course of research on whether removing them allows spotted owls to reclaim lost territories. Those owls were collected primarily by the California Academy of Sciences and Green Diamond Resource Company, which grows redwood for timber.
Among the first roughly 10 barred owls tested, about half have been positive for the poison. Two spotted owls found dead in Mendocino County in Northern California also tested positive for the poisons, Gabriel said.
I’ve talked about this before in context of the rare Pacific fisher. A very good reason to legalize and regulate marijuana production is to eliminate these environmental threats to animals. Right now, you have marijuana farmers dumping whatever poisons they want on their plants with no consequence. This goes right up the food chain, into meat-eating forest mammals and birds of prey. It’s probably not widespread enough to affect fish populations on a general level, but some local studies near busted pot farms would be interesting.
Right now you have insatiable demand for a product operating completely outside the nation’s regulatory structures. This has very real consequences, including to other species.