California Wins Big for Birds of Prey Curbing Use of Super-toxic Rat Poisons

California Leads the Nation on Safeguards for Rat Poisons

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The presence of birds of prey in the wild serves as a barometer of our ecological health, so losing these incredible birds to super-toxic rat poisons (rodenticide) is quite impactful.

Birds of prey tell us when there’s an environmental change, and they play an essential role in controlling the population of rodents and other small mammals.

And their tragic deaths from rat poisoning tells a gruesome story.

So we were thrilled when our friend, Lisa Owens Viani, director and co-founder of Raptors Are The Solution (RATS), shared some important news.

California is the first state with a law protecting birds of prey, and native wildlife against the use of super-toxic rat poisons known as second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs).

This is a huge win for wildlife, and we like to see the underdogs win!

And gives hope to other states planning to adapt this milestone achievement.

Beautiful faces of rat poisoning: Top left: Red-tailed Hawk dying of rat poisoning; right: Young Red-tailed Hawk died of rat poisoning before it could every fly; Bottom left: Barred Owl lost to rat poisoning; right: Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk humanely euthanized as a result of rat poisoning
Beautiful faces of rat poisoning: Top left: Red-tailed Hawk dying of rat poisoning; right: Young Red-tailed Hawk died of rat poisoning before it could every fly; Bottom left: Barred Owl lost to rat poisoning; right: Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk humanely euthanized as a result of rat poisoning. Thanks to Christine’s Critters for caring for these unfortunate victims

California Protects Native Wildlife Impacted by Rat Poisons

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the California Ecosystems Protection Act (AB 1788) into law on November 29, 2020.

This law curbs the use of super-toxic rat poisons (SGARs) linked to deaths of non-target wildlife like birds of prey, which include Barn Owls, Great Horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Cooper’s Hawks.

great_horned_owl_attack_intobirds
AB 1788 protects birds of prey, like Barn Owls, Great Horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Cooper’s Hawks against super-toxic rat poisons

The bill places a moratorium, with limited exceptions, on the use of rat poisons until the California Department of Pesticide Regulation reevaluates these products.

It also requires state regulators reduce the threats to non-target wildlife before the restrictions can be lifted.

“Anticoagulants are wiping out the very wildlife that helps control rodents naturally. There’s a groundswell of support for this bill, which takes a giant step to reduce secondary poisoning,” says Lisa Owens Viani, director of Raptors Are The Solution.

Rodenticide Poisons All Animals

Rodenticides poison all animals in the environment.

This includes hawks, owls, mountain lions, bobcats, and endangered wildlife like Pacific fishers, spotted owls, and San Joaquin kit foxes.

Developed in the 1970s, SGARs have a higher potency than earlier compounds.

A single dose has a half-life of more than 100 days in a rat’s liver.

SGARs, which cause hemorrhaging and anticoagulant rodenticide intoxication, are often lethal to rodents after a single feeding. But intoxicated animals usually do not die immediately upon ingesting the compound –– instead, they become lethargic, making them easy prey for raptors and large mammals.

Animals that eat the intoxicated rodents suffer from food chain contamination. The poisons bioaccumulate in their bodies, and can eventually cause internal bleeding and death. Research shows they can also affect the immune systems of animals like bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions.

Whatever an animal eats, especially poison, travels up the food chain. Illustration by Raptors are the Solution
Whatever an animal eats, especially poison, travels up the food chain. Illustration by Raptors are the Solution

“These ‘one-feeding-kills’ poisons are devastating California’s wild animals, including some of the state’s most beloved species like mountain lions,” says Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Wells says California is taking a critical step towards safeguarding these animals from unnecessary suffering and death.

Safer Alternatives to Super-toxic Rat Poisons

Despite a 2014 ban on consumer sales, rat poisons continue to be heavily used by commercial operators.

There are many safer alternatives to super-toxic rat poisons.

Exclusion and sanitation are the best approaches to managing rodents.

Necessary steps to reduce rodents’ presence include:

-Sealing buildings

-Eliminating food and water sources

-Trimming foliage and tree limbs from the sides and roofs of houses

Rat poisoning is dangerous for all living things, not just birds. If you want to see a change in the laws for the use of rodenticide or a ban of all anticoagulants, then you need to speak up and advocate for change!
Rat poisoning is dangerous for all living things, not just birds. If you want to see a change in the laws for the use of rodenticide or a ban of all anticoagulants, then you need to speak up and advocate for change!

Make Smarter Choices

Think about the ramifications before you choose to use rat poison.

Choose less toxic alternatives safer for people, pets, birds, wildlife, and the environment.

Your actions can result in the death of birds and wildlife that bring you joy in life.

Please respect the gifts that nature provides us, and let’s all coexist.

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