Rodents such as rats and mice can be real pests, whether in urban or rural settings.
The federal government mandates that traps involving poisons must be secured to prevent access by children or pets. It further mandates that the use of first or second generation rodenticides can only be sold for commercial use.
The government’s website offers non-toxic alternatives such as glue traps. This latter and some other alternatives such as drowning ignore the aspect of cruelty to animals.
In B.C., the use of rodenticides is governed by the Integrated Pest Management Act. This act does allow civic governments to enact regulations regarding rodenticide use on their own properties but not throughout their communities.
Rodenticides in common use today are second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs). These rodenticides contain ingredients which prevent the blood of an animal which has consumed these from coagulating. The rodents which ingest the SGARs can take several days to die; their deaths are caused by internal bleeding.
The problem with the use of SGARs is that as rodents become ill, they become slower in their movements and are easy prey for owls, other winged predators and wild carnivores such as coyotes, feral cats and even, on occasion, treasured family pets.
The predators who eat these rodents become ill themselves, and can die from the poisons. OWL, the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Delta, sees many such cases of poisoning in owls and other birds of prey each year.
Sadly, many of them die despite the administration of vitamin K, an anticoagulant.
(I should mention that OWL receives sick and injured birds of prey from all over B.C.)
There are other humane methods of rodent control. Owls are incredibly effective in dispatching rodents; it has been estimated that one owl can consume 1,000 rodents annually. Here in Delta, some farmers have requested the Delta Naturalists Cascade bird box team to construct and place homes for owls on their properties.
There is also a trap called The Good Nature Trap; curious rodents are instantly killed by a bolt of carbon dioxide fired when they poke their heads inside. And, of course, there are old fashioned snap traps.
In recent months, several cases of poisoned owls have come to attention of animal advocates and, through them, to local media. And, thanks to advocates for the safety of owls, hawks and eagles, the districts of North Vancouver and Saanich have enacted bans on the use of SGARs on civic properties in their jurisdictions.
The City of Richmond is likewise considering a ban and the City of Delta has been approached about enacting a similar ban on its properties. The hope is that eventually more civic jurisdictions will follow suit.
It is interesting to note the BCSPCA has information on its website noting the aspects of animal cruelty inherent in SGARs. This same organization has a petition campaign online advocating a ban on the use of these pesticides.
Anita den Dikken