Moss Landing, CA, January 27, 2017 - In what is believed to be a first in the country for a restaurant, the The Haute Enchilada Cafe and Gallery in Moss Landing, California, is using a pair of barn owls as an eco-friendly method of rodent control.
The unique arrangement is part of an overall plan by Haute Enchilada chef/owner Kim Solano to make her restaurant greener and more Earth-friendly. Instead of using highly poisonous rodenticide to try and control the rodent population in and around her business, Solano sought out safer alternatives.
She contacted Moss Landing-based Humane Wildlife Control, which is owned and operated by husband-and-wife wildlife experts, Duane Titus and Rebecca Dmytryk.
The couple erected a barn owl box on top of a 20-foot pole on Solano's property last December. Within days a pair of owls took up residence in the box and by early January, the female laid her first egg. By Jan. 18, there were eight eggs.
The female, named Lotte, will brood the young eggs constantly, taking only a break in the early evening to stretch her wings. The male, named Teco, brings Lotte fresh meals of gopher, rat, mouse and vole, regularly through the night. Sometimes the meals are “cached” in the corners of the box.
The names for the owls come from the Spanish word for owl, “tecolote.”
Barn owls are superior hunters, have voracious appetites and are not woodland birds, preferring open fields and grassy slopes. They prey on small nocturnal animals. A single barn owl can hunt, capture and eat a dozen rodents per night. A barn owl family can consume 3,000 rodents in a single four-month breeding cycle.
Barn owls are called “cavity” dwellers because for nesting and roosting, they prefer quiet cavities, either in trees or man-made structures such as barns, silos and specially made boxes. Once erected, barn owls readily take to these nest boxes without any enticements from humans.
Humane Wildlife Control first made sure that Haute Enchilada was not using poisonous rodenticide or was using only RatX, the only wildlife-safe rodenticide in the United States. Then they sealed up any holes or cracks where rodents could enter the buildings. Then came the owls, which is helping to clear the surrounding property of rodents.
But Dmytryk cautioned that having owls doesn't mean that a business is “getting rid” of rodents completely.
“It's mostly about control. You're not getting rid of all rodents,” she said. “It's a process.”
As far as Dmytryk knows, Haute Enchilada is the only restaurant in the country that is using owls to control its rodent population.
“To my knowledge, Haute is the first and only restaurant in the country to do it,” said Dmytryk. “We're hoping that other people will want boxes too. There aren't enough nesting sites for barn owls. We're spreading barn owls one box at a time.”
At Haute Enchilada, the owls have not only begun to reduce the local rodent population, they've become stars in their own right. An infrared security camera has been installed in Lotte and Teco's box so patrons can either watch the owls on a monitor at the restaurant or watch a live stream from their homes, 24/7.
The restaurant is also using the live feed to broadcast secret messages and to promote food and drink specials.
The pair’s eggs are expected to hatch the first week of February. An event is being planned for Feb. 11 to celebrate the hatching of the eggs, and an Earth Day fundraiser is being planned for March 19 to celebrate Earth-friendly sustainable practices, with an art auction and costume contest. Proceeds will be donated to The Last Plastic Straw — a Bay Area program aimed at reducing single-use plastics.
But the owls are only part of the overall goal of Haute Enchilada to be as green as possible. They do their best to serve only sustainable seafood; all their meat and poultry is natural and free-range; their produce is locally sourced and organic when possible; they have a beehive (maintained by Carmel Honey Co.) to not only maintain the health of their gardens, but for natural honey in the restaurant; they are the first in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties to implement the use of paper straws, which helps reduce plastic in landfills and oceans; and they do not use toxic cleaning products.
About The Haute Enchilada Cafe and Gallery
The Haute Enchilada Cafe and Gallery boasts an eclectic menu of sustainable seafood and local organic produce, wine and beer tasting, plus two art galleries with local artists’ original work displayed. Haute Enchilada is committed to sustainable, earth-friendly practices.
The Haute Enchilada
Open daily: 11 a.m. – until closing
7902 Moss Landing Road
Moss landing, CA
About Humane Wildlife Control
Humane Wildlife Control is a family-run business, owned by husband and wife wildlife experts, Duane Titus and Rebecca Dmytryk.
They officially began offering services in 2013 after years of providing assistance with wildlife problems through their non-profit, Wildlife Emergency Services.
Their vast knowledge and experience with wild animals gives them an advantage over other pest control companies since their methods are based on the animals' natural instincts.
Their service areas include the Central Coast and Greater Bay Area, with branches in the Greater Los Angeles area and portions of Ventura County.
Marci Bracco Cain
Salinas, CA 93901