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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Three Decades of Satisfied Israeli Farmers: Barn Owls (Tyto alba) as Biological Pest Control of Rodents

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Compared to the use of invertebrate as biological pest control of agents of invertebrate pests, the use of vertebrates as biological pest control agents against other vertebrates is less common due to difficulties in manipulating and increasing their populations. Barn owls have been used as biological control agents in different countries, including Israel, which initiated the project in 1982 and as of 2017 has a total of 3,250 nest boxes deployed in the country. Our aim here was to determine whether farmer satisfaction/dissatisfaction response to a survey on the effectiveness of the barn owl project is related to the number of nest boxes and breeding barn owl pairs that the farmers have in their fields; and whether farmers deploy nest boxes as a result of previous rodent damage in their fields. We found that farmers that had incurred rodent damage both used more rodenticides and also installed more nest-boxes (and consequently had more breeding barn owls) than those who reported a lack of damage. Farmers who were satisfied using barn owls had more nest boxes and hence more breeding barn owls, and reported that rodent damage had decreased during the project, as compared to farmers who were not satisfied with the project. The number of nest boxes added to agricultural fields is growing yearly, both due to scientific and national projects and because farmers in Israel purchase nest boxes independently, indicating their belief in the project.

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