DEC looking into deaths of three owls in Southold

The deaths of three owls in Southold have caused concern in the community and prompted an investigation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, The Suffolk Times has learned.

The DEC collected the carcasses of an adult great horned owl and two owlets in Peconic on April 4, an official said.

The causes of death are still unclear. The specimens were sent to the Cornell Duck Research Laboratory, a DEC official said, and the department is still awaiting necropsy results. 

Paula DiDonato of Southold discovered one of the owls earlier this week. She’d been watching a nest in her neighborhood for about two weeks when she noticed a “large great horned owl” sitting in the tree during the day, which she thought was unusual. 

She isn’t sure if she stumbled across the body of a juvenile owl or if it was just small, but she found it on the ground near the nest with no clear cause of death. She called the DEC, which collected the body for testing. 

“It really just looked like a perfect owl, it didn’t look like there was anything significant,” Ms. DiDonato said. She added that she’s concerned the spate of owl deaths were caused by pesticides or rat poison. 

There is no indication that the owls were killed by rat poison and an investigation is ongoing. Peggy Lauber, president of the Audubon Society, however has emphasized that rodenticide can be “incredibly toxic” and presents a danger to pets, people and other wildlife, including birds.