Continuing Rat Poison Concerns (and Update)

Continuing Rat Poison Concerns (and Update)

We’ve encountered two dead mature rats in our yard the last month. Neither had marks, indicating they were not killed by a critter or injury. So we conjecture they succumbed to rat poison put out by neighbors or more likely, the pest companies they have employed. I’ve written a series on the rodent issues, including problems with secondary poisoning (see Our Ailing Wildlife ) but it seems a reminder is warranted.

Bobcat with mange from rodenticide

Bobcat with mange from rodenticide poisoning

In a nutshell, dogs, coyotes, hawks or owls can eat the dead rats and die from the poisons in the carcass. Cats are more immune to the poison. Studies show at least 70% of wildlife predators  (95% of tested bobcats) have had exposure to rodenticide. For those of us that get confused about terminology, rodenticides are pesticides used for rodents. Wildlife with mange appear to be connected to rodenticides.

Dead rat from rodenticide

Dead rat on our property, likely from rodenticide use by neighbors

It’s important that people using poisons dispose of any carcasses as soon as possible. When I’ve discussed this with pest companies, their line is the rodents walk off and die under brush — yet we have found many dead rats out in the open. Better yet, don’t use these poisons — which are the same powerful ‘second generation’ rodenticides in products such as d-Con that have been banned for retail use in California. Also, new research is showing many of the new rodenticides on the shelves do similar secondary poisoning damage.

Instead, rat-proof your home.

As much as possible, remove compost bins and food supplies, and repair any holes that allow entry to homes or structures that contain food. While rats are not natural residents, we do have natural predators, such as great horned owls, foxes, bobcats and snakes that help take care of them if we let them. Click here for our experience.

Rats on our property

Rats on our property (before rodent control….)


Why are Rodenticides available – aren’t they banned?

Supposedly, California has banned these second generation rodenticides, and the EPA has banned them in retail stores. But I still see them, and even is selling them.

I checked with Cynthia Palmer, Director of Pesticides Science and Regulation of the American Bird Conservancy, who said it’s easy to be confused. “The regs are very complicated and there are differences between the federal and CA requirements,” she said.
According to the EPA requirements all the second-generation rodenticide products are banned from retail outlets….not just the loose pellets which began the concern. But the products can still be bought in bulk from agricultural supply stores. Other rodenticides must be in tamper-proof containers and anyone can buy these.

Stricter California Sales
Here in California the second-generation rodenticides were labelled restricted materials — available only to licensed professional applicators — who can buy them in bulk. In the rest of the US, anyone  can buy the second-generation rodenticides in bulk from supply stores.

The California regulations took effect immediately, banning retail sales of the d-CON and other second generation rodenticides last summer(July 1, 2014).

According to Palmer, the national ban ended production Dec. 31, 2014 and allowed distribution to retailers to continue through March 31, 2015. “But there’s still a lot of the banned product being sold legally – online, from the mega-retailers like Lowe’s, and from local neighborhood stores. Apparently the immediacy of the California ban is one reason for the huge quantities of surplus product around the country, as the rodenticides that suddenly became illegal in California were later re-distributed for sale in the rest of the US.”

My advice – tell family and friends to avoid these products. We’re all waiting for the day when these retail sales of d-CON will end — so that our kids, pets, raptors and other wildlife will be protected from these super-toxic poisons.

This coyote with mange likely has secondary poisoning from eating rodents

This coyote with mange near our home likely has secondary poisoning from eating rodents

About Linda Richards

My goal is to educate about the science of nature in layperson speak, through my writing, science and education background. I grew up in the Chicago area, loved living in Minneapolis before gravitating to the West, which is now home.

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