The section of Highway 41 between Stratford and Kettleman City has become a killing ground for the central San Joaquin Valley’s barn owl population.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers recently found the remains of 28 of the predatory nocturnal birds, most of them near Stratford, according to Peter Tira, a spokesman for the state agency. The investigation concluded that every single one of the owls had been hit by a motor vehicle.
Blame it on an unseasonably wet winter from 2016 to 2017, investigators say. That led to a spike in the population of mice and other small rodents — the meals of choice for owls, hawks and other raptors. Since owls hunt at night, that puts them on an especially high collision course with traffic along the highway through the largely agricultural area.
The California Highway Patrol could not be reached to comment on whether there have been any serious crashes involving owls and vehicles.