Rat poison injuring wildlife | BC SPCA
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Rat poison injuring wildlife

February 28, 2020

The beauty and diversity of B.C. wildlife are undeniable. However, some wild animals are better kept away from your home. Did you know the methods you choose to control them have an impact on other wildlife?

northern spotted owl in the wild

Wild rats are a good example. Anticoagulant rodenticide is commonly used in urban areas for rodent control, not only in homes but also by municipalities in parks and municipal facilities.

If you have seen black boxes around the outside of community centres, transit stations, and other buildings, you know they are using poison for rodent control. The problem with rodenticides is that when raptors and other animals eat poisoned prey, they also get poisoned.

black rat near black box

In the case of rodenticides, anticoagulants thin the blood and prevent it from clotting, causing rodents to die from internal bleeding. These rodenticides have that same lethal effect on other animals.

Exposing animals to poisoned bait and prey is how rat poison is injuring and killing owls and other BC wildlife. The harm comes from direct and secondary poisoning.

Direct poisoning

Direct poisoning occurs when the bait is eaten by a non-target animal, like a cat, or a squirrel. These animals then die from internal bleeding caused by rodent poison.

Bait is made to smell like food and attract animals. Its odour and flavour attract squirrels, skunks, birds, and even cats and dogs.

Who wouldn’t want to try a peanut butter treat left on a bait trap for wild rats? Curiosity and their acute sense of smell, drive small animals directly to tasty treats that also provide them with a lethal dose of anticoagulant rodenticide.

gray squirrel on branch

Secondary poisoning

Secondary poison occurs when owls and other raptors eat poisoned animals. The risk of secondary poisoning expands to predators like coyotes and foxes that feed on rodents too.

The lethal effect of anticoagulant poison takes several days to kill rodents. During that time, poisoned mice and rats keep feeding on bait, providing a more toxic dose to their predators. At the same time, the internal bleeding caused by rodenticides weakens their systems, making them slow and more vulnerable to predators: the easier to catch, the more prey is consumed, which means more poison is ingested.

When owls and other animals eat poisoned rats and mice, the poison also causes a slow and painful death.

barred owl on tree branch

What can you do?

You can help wildlife by decreasing the amount of rat poison in the environment. Here are a few steps you can take:

At home, prevention and rodent-proofing is the best way to use less (or no) poison. Get advice from an animal-friendly pest and wildlife control company. We have a list of BC SPCA-recommended AnimalKind companies that can help you. These companies use the kindest, most animal-friendly and effective ways to solve problems with rodents, raccoons, squirrels, skunks, birds and more.

You can also tell any pest company you hire that you want them to follow AnimalKind standards (PDF).

In your community, contact your municipality and ask what they are doing to decrease the use of rodent poison. By starting a conversation, you are making more people in your community aware of the danger anticoagulant rodenticides poses to raptors and other animals like coyotes, squirrels, and small pets.

With your help, we can push our municipalities in the right direction to reduce the use of rodenticides in parks and near greenbelts and areas that are home to B.C. wildlife. Suggest to members of municipal government to follow AnimalKind standards (PDF) that outline animal-friendly methods for wildlife and rodent control.

It takes a community effort to change the way we do things. Together, we can reduce the amount of rodenticide municipalities use and decrease the risk of secondary poisoning for B.C. wildlife.

Learn more about humane pest control and co-existing with wildlife.

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