2013 Colusa, California, USA
After looking into environmental issues in their rural community, Ruby Dunham and Kyle Cervantes were concerned about the use of rodenticide to control rodent populations on farms. Because rodenticide takes a while to process through the system, rodents are slowly affected and are easy targets for predators, usually raptors. Thus rodenticide can cause secondary poisoning of raptor populations, a current threat to their survival.
Dunham and Cervantes wrote a proposal to build and install barn owl boxes on a local farm to both provide habitat and natural control of rodents. This would reduce or eliminate the need for rodenticide, decreasing the introduction of these chemicals into out watersheds and the birds and wildlife that inhabit them– a win-win situation for farmers and the environment.
Students worked with the school’s shop teacher and a local cabinet maker to build the boxes. Funding was provided by the local Morning Star Cannery, who helped to install the boxes at a grower’s ranch. Students built a total of 22 owl boxes for use at local farms and ranches. Barn owls, very efficient hunters (a family can consume over 3000 mice a year), have already begun to inhabit the boxes. This type of integrated pest management can serve as a model for other farms in the area.