Oct 10, 2022

Everywhere: Using Rodenticide is Bonkers

I first became aware of the hazards of rodenticide in the 90s. It is a nationwide problem serving only to make money for exterminators.  Poison may be touched by children and vandals, transported by rat or other victims to countless spots far from the bait box, and cruelly impact more than one creature or one species. I hope readers can examine the issue and share their findings with others in their networks. 

Bald eagles (such as the ones who built the vacant nest in the photo) feed mostly on fish, but will prey on a wide variety of other lives as well - marine life, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and other birds. I have witnessed an eagle capture a squirrel and another time a duck. They are known to eat rats too. I have seen a rat enter a pile of metal rails (can be seen in the photograph) below the eagles nest near where I live and another time I saw one who was traveling through rocks at Shell Beach on Bellingham Bay. Both times the rat eyed me too as they passed by, and I must confess, each brought to mind Walt Disney's beloved characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. Maybe what I saw were big chubby mice, but it doesn't matter which species is being targeted - it is counterproductive and nasty.

Have you heard of the organization Raptors are the Solution? It is a very active educational charity spreading the message about the frightening ramifications of rodenticides. Their material can be freely downloaded and shared with schools, governmental agencies, service clubs, businesses, Chambers of Commerce, and so on. 

Rats, like all elements in ecosystems, provide vital functions in the environment. Besides cleaning up natural matter, they are food for owls, hawks, eagles, raccoons and other critters. Turkey vultures provide cleanups of deceased rats and other carrion. There is a family of Turkey vultures in the natural "rain garden" next door.

When a rat consumes rat bait he or she will die a slow and painful death. As the rodenticide in a bait box gets depleted the contract with an exterminator covers refills. We have all been duped by slick salesmen but in these cases property managers are becoming accomplices in animal cruelty. And the rat population size will stay about the same until humans deal with the messes they make. Health hazards to human populations are created by humans' foul messes. 

Meanwhile raptors, owls and others who ingested a dead or dying rat will decline in health and may gradually succumb to the poison they ingested from one or more affected rats. I was told there are bobcats in the critical areas too; they are also vulnerable to the lethal effects of dead or dying poisoned rodents. Any organism in the food web is affected. Dying of rodenticide is a far-reaching, human-made, unnecessary tragedy.  It is simply mean, self-defeating and unfair to poison wildlife.

Not only are bait boxes a scam and ineffective in solving what the buyer wants to solve, they are likely to be incorrectly placed and not monitored at all. 

Depending on the locale, citizens' attitudes, and enforcement of garbage regulations, it can be glaringly obvious when humans are providing attractants to rats in the form of illegal dumping and litter. When humans fail to keep their premises tidy, they are likely to be providing places for rats to take shelter, i.e., harborage. 

Sealing leaks or installing wire mesh screens and grates are a few ways to block access by rats who are interested foraging and/or sheltering in human hangouts. It is entirely effective to allow the natural landscape to serve the purpose of rat shelter as it is meant to. Keeping food scraps and other debris picked up and properly disposed of is important in discouraging rodents from entering  office buildings, shops, warehouses, factories and human housing.

Birders, kids, and other naturally caring individuals do not want wildlife treated viciously. It is important to cause no harm, raise awareness, expose the scam, and spread the word about preserving nature's abundance and self-cleaning processes.

The hateful approach to rats in the environment that has been going on for years is ubiquitous. Quite like the nonsense that crime can be prevented by pulling out landscaping. Since nature renders vital life support for all of us we should be accommodating to all facets of nature as nature is to us. It would be fantastic if people spoke up and caused rodenticide hazards to be  eliminated ASAP.