A new study has revealed a terrible side effect of marijuana farming in California, specifically the northwestern counties.
The endangered Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) is among several species that are being killed by ingesting rat poison second hand from their primary sources of food: rats and mice.
What’s worse, according to Live Science, is that the lethal chemical anticoagulant rodenticide (AR) is coming from unpermitted private marijuana grow sites in Humboldt, Mendocino and Del Norte counties.
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, and the California Academy of Sciences studied the carcasses of 10 northern spotted owls and found poison in seven of them.
According to Live Science, it’s not just the spotted owl that is ingesting poison. Barred Owls (BO) are also being threatened.
Of the 84 dead barred owls the researchers collected, 34 — about 40 percent — tested positive for the substance, which impedes the body’s ability to clot blood and can result in unchecked internal bleeding.
That’s compared to the 70 percent of northern spotted owls that tested positive for the substance.
According to the study:
Unfortunately, illegal clandestine marijuana cultivation complexes have been occurring on private, tribal, and public lands, are increasing throughout California and the Pacific Northwest, and often fall within NSO-designated ESA (Endangered Species Act) critical habitat and occupied NSO and BO territories.
…recently, in their final status review report to the California Fish and Game Commission regarding the conservation status and threats to NSO, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife stated that toxicants such as ARs from marijuana cultivation sites likely pose “a serious and widespread threat to northern Spotted Owls.”
Lead study author Mourad Gabriel of UC Davis tells Live Science, “If no one is investigating the level at which private marijuana cultivators are placing chemicals out there, the fragmented forest landscapes created by these sites can serve as source points of exposure for owls and other wildlife.”
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Jack Dumbacher, curator of ornithology and mammalogy at the California Academy of Sciences, says the owl necropsies have allowed him and his team to understand the health of the entire regional forest system. “We’re using our collections to build a concrete scientific case for increased forest monitoring and species protection before it’s too late to intervene.”