A SAD STORY ABOUT THE DEADLY EFFECTS OF RAT POISON ON SMALL MAMMALS AND SAFE ALTERNATIVES TO RAT POISON

Annisquam resident Abbie Lundberg’s recent post on Facebook has caught the attention of many:

“To my Annisquam neighbors:
In the last couple of days while walking in Norwood Heights, I’ve come across various dead small animals that had obviously been poisoned. Two days ago, it was a mouse and a vole – both completely intact – the mouse in the middle of the road on it’s back, and the vole on the side. Today a chipmunk fell out of a tree directly above me in the same stretch of road, landing with a whack then staggering off into the bushes – it clearly had neurological damage. This is the stretch of Norwood Heights that is a continuation of Norrock.
Not only is poison a cruel way to deal with what some consider pests, it affects a lot more than the intended targets. Foxes, owls and hawks all eat mice and will suffer terrible damage and possibly die if they eat poisoned rodents. Some dogs and cats might also eat dead or dying rodents they come across. I removed the two dead animals (dog poop bags come in handy for all sorts of things) to get them out of the environment.
I’m posting this as a warning to anyone who might walk their dogs in the area or have outdoor cats, and as a plea for people to consider other options in dealing with unwanted critters than using poison.”

Rodenticides are on the Animal Advisory Committee’s agenda for their October meeting, 10-10-19, at 6:30, at City Hall.

We are reposting the following alternatives to rat poison, published by Audubon. 

The brand names are Havoc, Talon, Generation, d-Con, and Hot Shot. Do not buy these products because they contain the deadly indgredients brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, and difenacoum.

Both first- and second-generation rodenticides prevent blood from clotting by inhibiting vitamin K, though the second-generation products build to higher concentrations in rodents and are therefore more lethal to anything that eats them.

What makes second-generation rodenticides so non-selective is that they kill slowly, so rodents keep eating them long after they’ve ingested a lethal dose. By the time they expire, or are about to, they contain many times the lethal dose and are therefore deadly to predators, scavengers, and pets.

There’s no safe place or safe delivery system for second-generation rodenticides. After a rodent partakes, it stumbles around for three to four days, displaying itself as an especially tempting meal not just for raptors but for mammalian predators, including red foxes, gray foxes, endangered San Joaquin kit foxes, swift foxes, coyotes, wolves, raccoons, black bears, skunks, badgers, mountain lions, bobcats, fishers, dogs, and house cats—all of which suffer lethal and sublethal secondary poisoning from eating rodents. Deer, non-target rodents, waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, songbirds, and children suffer lethal and sublethal poisoning from eating bait directly.”

Here in a nutshell are alternatives to second generation rat poison. Please read the complete article, which goes in to much greater detail to better understand why this is happening, which companies are responsible for creating the toxic poison, which companies are taking it upon themselves to ban second-generation rodenticides (Walgreens, yes, Home Depot, no), and how you can help.

  1. Prevent a rodent infestation by keeping waste in tightly covered garbage pails and compost bins.
  2. RATS! (Raptors are the Solution) – a national alliance of citizens, nonprofit groups, and local governments that educates consumers and municipalities about safe methods of rodent control and the dangers of second-generation poisons. MASS-RATS is the newly formed state chapter of RATS.
  3. . Hungry Owl Project – delivers safe, effective rodenticide in the form of Barn Owls! This organization also advocate for other predators—coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, badgers, skunks, bobcats, raccoons, opossum.
  4. When natural rodent control is not possible in urban areas: single- and multiple-entrance snap traps, electrocuting traps, glue traps (provided you use them only indoors and frequently dispatch stuck rodents), and even first-generation baits with these active ingredients: chlorophacinone, diphacinone, diphacinone sodium salt, war-farin, and warfarin sodium salt.
  5. The “Better Mouse Trap” – Take a metal rod, run it through holes drilled in the center of both lids of an emptied tin soup can so the can becomes a spinning drum. Fasten both ends of the rod to the top of a plastic bucket via drilled holes. Coat the can with peanut butter, and fill the bucket with water and a shot of liquid soap (to break the surface tension and thus facilitate quicker, more humane drowning). Mice and rats jump onto the can, and it spins them into the water.

Toxic Lunch photo by Dan Vickers

RATS!

Gloucester’s Animal Advisory Committee recently sponsored an informative presentation by Gary Menin, director of the Massachusetts chapter of the organization R.A.T.S. (Raptors Are The Solution). Gary presented a talk with accompanying slides on the catastrophic effects of rodenticides on owls, hawks, falcons, eagles, and other birds of prey.

Gloucester is a waterfront community and as such, we will most assuredly always have a rat population.  As has been pointed out dozens of times at the AAC meetings, improper handling of garbage is one of our number one problems. Garbage bags not contained in cans that are placed on city streets the night before trash collection attracts and provides food for coyotes, gulls, crows, and rats. Dumpsters not properly closed and maintained also support rats, gulls, crows, and coyotes, as do overflowing beach barrels.

Although second generation rodenticides are banned, exterminators are still allowed to use them. Gary reminded us however that YOU are the client. If all else fails and an exterminator must be hired, tell them not to use rodenticide under any circumstance.

Firstly, if we better manage our trash, we can greatly shrink the nuisance critter population. Additionally, Gary provided an excellent list of alternatives to rodenticides.

1). Snap traps

2). Ultrasonic waves

3). Electrocuting traps

4). Live trap and relocate

5). Dry ice pellets placed at hole entryways

6). Moth balls and peppermint oil as a repellent

7). Goodnature A24 Rat Trap

Under no circumstances are glue traps recommended as they are an unusually cruel method of extermination.

As we have talked about many times on Good Morning Gloucester, the White-footed Mouse and the Chipmunk are the greatest vectors of Lyme disease. Raptors play a vital rope in controlling mice, chipmunks, and other small rodent populations and have proven to be an important link in the fight against Lyme disease.

Gary also mentioned that the city of Revere recently purchased rat-proof garbage cans that every member of the community is mandated to use. The local governing body was fed up with the proliferation of rats because of flimsy trash bags, overflowing barrels, and careless disposal of garbage. You can read more about Revere’s new barrels here: Revere Looks to Put Lid on Rat Problem.

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We can also purchase or build our own owl nest box. With a quick google search you can find tons of DIY videos, plans, and directions online such as this one for a Screech Owl house.

Screech Owl House Plans

Every year we hear Screech Owls in our neighborhood, close-by, and I’m inspired to build an owl house after hearing Gary’s presentation!

 

Last winter Hedwig was seen with almost clock-work regularity departing nightly for her evening hunt. An adult Snowy Owl feeds on average three to five times per day.

The food web graphics provided by R.A.T.S. are terrific and are free and downloadable for anyone’s use.

R.A.T.S. – RAPTORS ARE THE SOLUTION!

Check out these terrific outreach posters for wildlife educators and school teachers found on the website RATS, or Raptors are the Solution. They have a bunch of free downloadable, printable posters, including several versions for young kids to color. You can download these posters directly from GMG, and go to the RATS website here and see more free educational material.

PROGNOSIS NOT LOOKING GOOD

Erin and Jodi at Cape Ann Wildlife are treating this sweetest juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk for rat poison. The young hawk is yet another patient in their long list of wild creatures that have been poisoned this year by rodenticide. The prognosis is not looking good for this little guy.

All photos of the sickly juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk courtesy Cape Ann Wildlife

The adult Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium sized hawk. They are mostly forest dwellers. I’ve only see one once and it was stunning in flight.

Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk – Image courtesy wiki commons media

PLEASE DON’T POISON MY DINNER

Several friends have asked whether or not I was freaked out by the mouse running up my dress and out my coat sleeve. No, I wasn’t. Surprised, but not panicked, and just happy the frightened little thing did not bite me.

We live in an old house and are occasionally visited by mice, despite my husband’s best efforts at sealing any cracks that may develop in the almost one hundred and seventy five-year-old mortar of the granite foundation. Our cat, Cosmos, before he suffered severe brain damage from a coyote attack, was the best mouser ever. Now that Cosmos has retired, Tom uses Have-a-Heart traps.

I have written about this topic previously, but never in a million years would we use a rodenticide. The first reason being is that if one of our beautiful raptors (including owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles), eats a rat or mouse that has ingested rat poison, the raptor will most surely perish. For example, the majority of Snowy Owls that die in our region and are autopsied, have been killed by rat poison. Secondly, most rats, after ingesting poison, will return to their nest ie., that cozy spot behind your wall. Working in theatre for many years, I encountered more than a few rats, as well as well meaning types who decided to kill rats with rodenticide. If you have ever smelled a dead rat laying behind an inaccessible theatre wall, you would never again use rat poison (and the odor lasts for weeks!).

RATS – Raptors Are The Solution