Wildlife is dying, rat poisons are to blame. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has over 800 pages of at least 350 incidents of wildlife poisonings (and these are only the animals that have been found and turned in). Biologists believe many animals perish and are never found, meaning that what we are seeing is probably only the tip of the iceberg.
There are three types of rodenticide products: first generation anti-coagulants (FGARs), second-generation anti-coagulant rodenticides (SGARs), and non-anticoagulants. Pest control companies are the sources of the hundreds of poison bait boxes we see all over our neighborhoods and commercial and business areas. Rodents are not trapped in these boxes, they ingest the poison and as the poison kicks in they become disoriented, lethargic, and wander into the open. It often takes about three days before it dies making it an easy, but super-toxic meal to an unsuspecting predator. After eating the poisoned prey, the predator begins to bleed internally and dies a slow and painful death.
Pest control operators servicing just a small number of households can destroy the wildlife in entire neighborhoods. Among heavy users of the poisons are agricultural, golf courses, home owners, and trespass growers of marijuana on public and private lands.
Dr. Gabriel Mourad, an ecologist, found that almost 80 percent of fishers, a near-endangered member of the weasel family that live in some of the most remote forests in California, were found dead between 2006 and 2011 had been exposed to high levels of SGARs. He and his colleagues are concerned about how rodenticides are affecting the entire forest food chain, from rodents to carnivores like martens, spotted owls, and the Sierra Nevada red fox.
The most remote corners of Northern California’s public wildlands are being contaminated with super-toxic poisons due to their use in egregious trespass marijuana grow operations. It is imperative for our endangered wildlife that these dangerous materials are removed from the market as soon as possible.
Understanding Rat Poison
Rodenticide—a deadly poison disguised as tasty food, often flavored to taste like fish or peanut butter—is at the far end of the cruel spectrum in pest control. Strong evidence now shows that rodenticide is disrupting the web of life in the wildest regions of our Northern California forest. Anti-coagulant rodenticides such as d-CON kill by disrupting the Vitamin K cycle, which performs a life-essential blood-clotting function, causing its victim to slowly bleed to death, but if caught in time, can be treated with Vitamin K.
First generation anti-coagulants (FGARs), such as warfarin, coumatetralyl, generally have shorter elimination half-lives require higher concentrations and consecutive intake over days in order to accumulate the lethal dose, and are less toxic than second generation agents.
Second-generation anti-coagulant rodenticides (SGARs), such as difenacoum, brodifacoum, flocoumafen and bromadiolone (brands such as: d-Con) are made to kill rodents with a single dose. Yet, its effect is still delayed, so the rodent can keep feasting, accumulating more poison.
Bromethalin, a non-anticoagulant, was developed as a “better alternative” to anti-coagulants.
This “better alternative” is a neurotoxin which causes brain swelling and nervous system disruption, can affect its victims in two hours, and has no antidote. There are no tests to diagnose it either.
There are no safe poisons.
There are several things you can do to help:
- Tell your friends and neighbors about the dangers of rat poison
- Ask your local garden supply, hardware, supermarkets and department stores to stop carrying rodenticides
- Display our posters and yard signs where they can be seen
- Join Facebook pages: Friends Don’t Let Friends use Rat Poison
- Get a cat or dog
- Remove sources of rodent food and shelter
- Remove invasive ivy, it’s rat habitat
- Use covered snap-traps to avoid catching non-target wildlife like songbirds
- Cover snap traps with a plastic pot with a few entrances cut in the rim
- Use havahart traps
- Use natural rodent repellents such as peppermint oil, Fresh Cap or rataway (found at earthkind.com or rataway.com)
- Use the Raticator, which electrocutes rats (found at raticator.com)
- Protect the base of plant stalks with plastic pipe or wire mesh
- Use Tanglefoot on the base of plants, combined with wire mesh to prevent killing non-target wildlife
- Install a barn owl box – but only if everyone in your neighborhood commits to not using poison (visit hungryowl.org)
- Raptors Are The Solution (RATS) has a list of poisons still allowed for over-the-counter sale as well as their manufacturers, active ingredients, and known impacts
- Safe Rodent Controlwill tell you how to rodent-proof without poison
And lastly, if you think you must use a pest removal company, consider hiring one that uses Integrated Pest Management Practices (IPM) to permanently eliminate the source of food and shelter for rodents. IPM programs provide an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
A Little Background
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first began reporting cases of child, pet, and wildlife poisonings from anti-coagulants like d-CON in the early 1980s. Twenty years later National Resources Defense Council had to sue EPA to get them to act, eventually the EPA told manufacturers they had to eliminate their most toxic ingredients and repackage them more safely.
Reckitt-Benckiser, the maker of d-CON, the only manufacturer that had not altered its packaging and ingredients to comply with federal safety standards, left the company holding the gold ring – a monopoly on the most-toxic market while its lawyers battled EPA. More recently, the EPA has reached agreement with Reckitt Benckiser to cancel 12 d-CON rat and mouse poison products. Based on the agreement, Reckitt will begin to phase out production of the 12 d-CON rat and mouse poison products in June 2014. Production of these products will stop by December 31, 2014. Distribution to retailers will end by March 31, 2015.
As of July 1, consumers are no longer able to purchase these second-generation rodenticide products from retailers; however, commercial exterminators will still be able to purchase rodenticides. The use of rodenticides will continue to be used in the agriculture industry and professional grounds maintenance services.
While the new rules are not strong enough to prevent all poisonings of wildlife and pets—the pest control industry was exempted from the ban— this a bold step which would greatly reduce the number of pet and wildlife victims. Statistics noted in the “EPA Region 2 Pesticides in Child Care Initiative 2010 Staten Island Pilot Project Final Report” indicate that nationally there are about 90,000 calls annually to Poison Control Centers concerning pesticide exposure. Of these, 20% (about 19,000) of those calls are for rodenticides, with over 15,000 of rodenticide calls (86%) for children under 6 years old ingesting rodenticides.
For more information check out links to these other organizations: