An American kestrel sits on a tree and spits out a few tufts of fur before devouring a rat near the intersection of 10th Street SW and Fifth Avenue SW in Salmon Arm on Feb. 10. (Glynne Green photo)

Falcons pitch in to help clean up Salmon Arm’s rat problem

Shuswap naturalist gives raptors a tip of the hat for doing their part

If you’re one of the many residents in Salmon Arm whose home is or has been plagued with rats recently, there is a small force of winged ones on your side.

Although American kestrels are the smallest of the falcons, Ed McDonald, president of the Shuswap Naturalist Club, said he has been surprised and somewhat happy to see them catching rats.

“I usually see them in the warmer times, going after grasshoppers and things like that. They’re a smaller raptor.”

However, he has heard a few times in the last couple of months that they’ve been busy attacking the pesky rat population in the Shuswap.

McDonald implores people not to use poison to kill rats or, if it is used, to make sure it’s a poison that won’t hurt raptors, squirrels or other species.

He points out that in the Burnaby Lake area on the Lower Mainland, an industrial complex was putting out poison for rats. Because raptors catch and eat rats, it also killed owls and other wildlife.

Resident Glynne Green recently saw a female kestrel with a rat in its talons on a line above 10th Street SE near Fifth Avenue SW. It then flew down about 20 yards and landed atop a tree where it proceeded to devour its prey.

“It had it there in its clutches and they just go at it, they rip into it,” Green said.

Read more: Rats rear their pointy heads in Salmon Arm

Read more: Residents issue warning after rats found in another area of Salmon Arm

Read more: Osprey nest in downtown Salmon Arm will remain until new year

Another of the small falcons was seen on Feb. 26, gliding silently above a rat scurrying around a pile of snow on the highway side of Lakeshore Drive W near the former Windmill Meats location. The raptor, with a lightning fast and seemingly effortless move, grabbed the rodent in its talons, carried it to the top of a nearby pole and began ripping its fur off. After preparing its feast, the falcon quickly consumed it.

Toni Walton, manager of the Salmon Arm Buckerfield’s, said the rat problem doesn’t seem to be diminishing. She said the store first noticed rat complaints growing in the summer, and people still are still coming in regularly.

“There’s a problem in this town. We sell tons of rat traps and we have a lot of commercial bait, but you have to buy a bait station to put it in. It’s just imperative that if you put bait out you protect it,” she said. Also available is a rat zapper which electrocutes the rat.

Walton said while rats mean business for the store, she’d much rather they were gone.

“It’s a terrible thing. I’d rather sell more tulips…”

McDonald said he sees kestrels regularly on the wires in an area in the vicinity of Buckerfield’s. He said they go into a nearby meadow where lots of mice can be found.

The naturalists get calls about kestrels and saw-whet owls hanging around chicken coops, but they’re not after chickens. They’re waiting for a taste of the mice and rats that may frequent the coops in search of food.

“I’ve always thought the kestrels would be too small (to go after rats), but they just grab those things and rip them apart,” McDonald said. “We take our hats off to the kestrel.”



marthawickett@saobserver.net

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An American kestrel sits atop a pole on Lakeshore Drive W. near Churches Thrift Shop on Feb. 26 and tears apart a rat it caught on the highway side of Lakeshore. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

Resident Glynne Green photographed this female American kestrel about to enjoy a rat snack on the top of a tree near the intersection of 10th Street SW and Fifth Avenue SW in Salmon Arm on Feb. 10. (Glynne Green photo)

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