By Emily Powell
Few restaurant-goers find the idea of rodents particularly appetizing, which is partially
why chefs and restaurant owners take extreme measures to eliminate mice and rat populations from their property. But the costs of keeping rodent populations low can be exceptionally high, with repeated applications of rodenticide being costly and wreaking deadly havoc on other wildlife.
Enter the Haute Enchilada, a hotspot in a small town in Monterey County known for their emphasis on sustainable initiatives and practices, such as sourcing sustainable seafood and switching to paper straws. The Haute Enchilada has unofficially become the first American restaurant to use barn owls as integrative pest management to control the local rodent population.
The town of Moss Landing, about 15 miles northeast of Monterey, now boasts a growing population of barn owls after the Humane Wildlife Control, a pest management company owned and operated by wildlife experts Duane Titus and Rebecca Dmytryk, constructed a “barn owl box” on the Haute Enchilada’s property to attract a mating pair of owls.
Within days, two barn owls appeared in the box. Within a month, the female was brooding eight eggs.
As an alternative to noxious rodenticide, barn owls are naturally highly efficient rodent hunters, eating up to 3,000 rodents in a single four-month breeding cycle. On a strict diet of rat, mice, gopher and vole, the male will hunt and feed the brooding female all through the night, keeping the populations of rodents on the property relatively low.
The owls will remain in the outdoor box as long as they wish, and will most likely return for another breeding season. While the rodent population will not be completely eliminated, the owls’ voracious appetites will keep it at manageable levels.
Meanwhile, the owls enjoy a burst of fame as local celebrities through the 24/7 live streaming provided on the Haute Enchilada website (the broadcast is also a tool for advertising their special offers). Within 13 weeks, when the barn owls’ eggs hatch, the chaotic activity of the nest and the restaurant might just be a fantastic idea for a new reality TV show.
For more on Haute Enchilada, visit hauteenchilada.com.