A wildlife ranger has issued a plea to people in Portreath after a barn owl has died from bathing in cooking oil.
A runner discovered the distressed bird covered in oil, on Green Lane, Portreath, on Monday and took it to wildlife expert Gary Zammit of Feadon Farm, part of Gwel an Mor holiday resort.
Sadly the male owl could not be saved and died in the ranger’s hands.
Mr Zammit is now pleading with people to remove any container with cooking oil from outside areas.
** Warning, this video may be distressing for some viewers **
He said: “Someone, somewhere has a large container – at least washing up bowl sized – outside or in a shed where the barn owl can get in. This poor thing was trying to bath in it.
“Its just a death trap.
“The oil clogs up the feathers and stops the bird from keeping warm or clean and it prevents it from flying so it can’t hunt. So the owl probably died from a combination of starvation and pneumonia.
“It was dead within 10 minutes, we didn’t even have time to get him to the vets.”
The ranger has said that owl deaths are prevalent at this time of year as female birds are leaving their nest to wash in pools of water.
He has also asked people with smooth sided water troughs and ponds to add animal friendly perches in to prevent other species from drowning.
Mr Zammit said: “People with smooth areas of water need to be careful at this time of year as female owls and other creatures like hedgehogs will be trying to bathe.
“But once they get in they can’t get out if the sides are smooth as they have nothing to latch on to, so more often than not they drown.
“I would just ask people to put a rock or a piece of wood in the water so they can grip on to something to get out.”
Barn owls mate for life and Mr Zammit fears that this death will have a knock on effect on local pairs.
He said: “This has just highlighted something that is going on across Cornwall and the country
“I heard a barn owl calling last night, and it might have been calling for the dead male.
“It’s not just the loss of one bird it’s the loss of potentially four to five birds because of the chicks it could have had.”
Barn owls numbers in UK have dropped to a record low of between 3,000 and 5,000 pairs in comparison to 30,000 pairs just 60 years ago.