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Help WildCare Pursue Stricter Rodenticide Controls in California 

Rodenticide-poisoned Red-tailed Hawk
This Red-tailed Hawk died at WIldCare of rodenticide poisoning. The blood from eyes and nares is an obvious sign of the presence of anti-coagulants in the body, but this bird was too far gone upon admittance to be treated. Photo by Alison Hermance
Gray Fox kit being examined. Photo by Melanie Piazza
The population of Gray Foxes in the Bay Area is on the rebound, but these shy and secretive rodent predators won't last long with high levels of rodenticide running through their veins. Photo by Melanie Piazza
Hawk being restrained to receive a shot
Red-shouldered Hawk #0061 being restrained for an injection.
Hawk receiving a Vitamin K shot to combat poisoning
The hawk received a 6-week course of Vitamin K, the only antidote to these poisons.
Patient #0061 release, photo by Bill Wilson
Patient #0061 being released. Photo by Bill Wilson
Release, photo by Bill Wilson

Media coverage of the release was tremendous!
Photo by Bill Wilson

release, photo by Bill Wilson
This now-healthy bird was anxious to go, and the City's ban on 2nd-generation rodenticides ensures her future success. Photo by Bill Wilson
Happy, photo by Bill Wilson

Releasing an animal is always the best part, especially one that suffered as much as this Red-shouldered Hawk did.
Photo by Bill Wilson

 

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Breaking News March 2014:

A victory for wildlife! The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has adopted a regulation that makes the most dangerous second generation anticoagulant rodenticides, rat poisons, California restricted materials. This means in effect that the products will no longer be sold on retail store shelves and they will be out of reach to the general consumer as of July 2014.

The regulation affects all pesticide products containing the active ingredients brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, or difethialone.  Brand names for these products include d-Con and Generation.

WildCare applauds this new regulation as it will benefit untold numbers of wild animals that today carry heavy loads of anticoagulant poison in their bodies due to eating poisoned rodents. 

“This is a practical sensible regulation that goes a long way to protecting our wildlife,” said Brian Leahy, DPR Director. “Second generation anticoagulant rodenticides can contain some pretty powerful chemistry.  Restricting the use of SGARs to only certified applicators will significantly reduce unintended exposures to non- target wildlife.”

WildCare’s Director of Wildlife Solutions and Advocacy, Kelle Kacmarcik agrees.

 “WildCare has been working with DPR, US EPA and California Department of Fish and Wildlife on this issue for many years,” she says. “We are thrilled to share this announcement and we congratulate DPR for taking this important step toward the health of our wildlife.”

76.8% of tested patients had positive results for exposure to anticoagulant rat poisons in 2013. Read WildCare's 2013 Rodenticide Advocacy and Diagnostics Program (RDAP) statistics here...

Click to read the Press Release from WildCare and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (PDF)

Click to read "Silent Spring for Bay Area's Raptors?" an article on the San Francisco Chronicle about this issue on May 14, 2012.

In June of this year the EPA announced that they are starting the process to ban the most deadly second generation rodenticides from the consumer market. 

While WildCare applauds the spirit of this decision, we are concerned about weaknesses in this recent ruling.

The California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) is concerned too. In a recent letter to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, John McCamman, Director of DFG writes:

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"These second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides have a long, well-documented history of impacting non-target wildlfie, and thus, the Department of Fish and Game recommends revising California regulations to make these materials restricted."

Click to read the entire letter.

The term "non-target wildlife" refers to animals like hawks, owls and foxes that eat rodents poisoned with anti-coagulant rodenticides (rat poisons), and end up poisoned themselves.

In their letter, the DFG cites studies in which 92% of raptors collected in San Diego County and 79% of federally endangered San Joaquin Kit Foxes in the Bakersfield area showed residues of anticoagulant rodenticides in their blood. Of 104 Mountain Lions tested since 2005, 82 had rodenticides in their blood! The rat poison may not have killed the animals, but its presence in their bloodstreams is a disturbing indicator of the prevalence of these poisons in our environment.

WildCare's numbers show the same alarming trend-- 68.1% of the animals tested in our Wildlife Hospital show positive results for rodenticides, even if suspected poisoning isn't the reason the animal came to WildCare.

why california needs stricter regulations

While the EPA decision to ban the most deadly of the "second generation" anti-coagulant rodenticides from the consumer market is very important, the biggest flaw in the decision is the fact that venues in rural locations, like farm and feed stores could still sell these deadly products in large quantities! This loophole will still allow these products to be sold and put wildlife, including animals like foxes, bobcats and Mountain Lions at risk for secondary poisoning.

On July 11, 2011 The CA Dept of Fish & Game requested in a letter to CA Department of Pesticide Regulation that stricter controls (beyond what the recent EPA action called for) be put in place. Accompanying this letter was documentation of 240 cases of secondary poisoning in California across a variety of species and rodenticides. This data is extremely compelling as it is proof that every rodenticide (even the ones listed as alternatives by the EPA) does kill wildlife. 

Eliminating rodenticides completely will be a long battle. Every step taken to reduce these toxins in our environment is a step in the right direction.

WildCare fully supported the recommendation of the California Department of Fish and Game and wanted the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) to further restrict the rodenticides that are proving to be deadly to wildlife. To this end we started a petition that garnered 2,272 signatures.

More Information on Rodenticides and WildCare's Work to Combat Them 

In WildCare's Wildlife Hospital, animals showing obvious symptoms of rodenticide poisoning, like bleeding from the eyes and nose, lethargy and anemia, are treated aggressively with Vitamin K injections and other anti-rodenticide protocols.

But sometimes patients don't show obvious symptoms, and the "norms" for blood-coagulation levels (a prime indicator of anti-coagulant poisoning) are not yet standardized in wildlife medicine.

In 2010 WildCare began an initiative to test raptors, foxes, bobcats and other predatory animals for base-line blood coagulation levels and potential rodenticide poisoning. Shockingly, analysis of the data shows 68.1% of tested animals shows a positive result for rodenticide in the blood.

Most of these patients were admitted for reasons other than symptoms of poisoning (being hit by cars or showing other injuries are the most common), but these test results show that the majority of local predators are functionally living with anticoagulant toxins in their blood. What does this say about the prevalence of these poisons in our environment and the future health of these beneficial (rodent-eating) predators?

Rodenticide poisoning unintentionally kills the very animals nature has provided to keep rodent populations in check. WildCare is working to raise public awareness and bring legislative influence to bear against the use of these toxins. Please donate today to help our efforts!

How to Control Rodents Humanely

The best method of rodent control is prevention.  Rodents tend to set up camp in our homes when food and space are made available to them.

Remove potential rodent homes like yard debris, trash, construction waste, etc. Keep garbage lids closed and sealed.

Eliminate food sources. Keep bulk food, seed, and dry pet food in metal cans with secure lids.  Pick up fallen fruit. Take birdfeeders inside at night.

Exclude rodents from your home. Seal openings 1/2 inch or larger around the outside of your house with metal, concrete, or Stuf-fit Copper Mesh Wool, which can be found online or at hardware stores.

Include natural rodent predators in your solution. A family of five owls can consume up to 3000 rodents in breeding season. Placing a nest box to encourage a family of owls to make your property home can be a great alternative to commercial pest control methods. Please DO NOT erect an owl box if you or any of your neighbors are using rat poisons! Please visit www.hungryowl.org/ for more information.

Use catch-and-release traps as a safe, sanitary, and humane solution. Catch-and-release traps will allow you to remove rodents from inside your home, but you must prevent their return by sealing entrance and exit holes and removing attractants (see above).

If you exhaust all the above efforts and as a last resort decide to kill the rodents, please consider purchasing a rat zapper or snap traps. Keep in mind that lethal methods will only work if all the other steps outlined above are taken and maintained.

Gray Fox Tests Positive for Rodenticide Poisoning

On January 29, 2011 WildCare admitted Patient number #0070, an adult Gray Fox showing the symptoms of rat poison toxicity, including lethargy and anemia.

This poor animal died, and his liver was sent to UC Davis for testing to determine the cause of death.

Results from the submitted liver sample came back positive for three anticoagulant rodenticides: Brodifacoum, Bromadiolone and Difethialone. All of these are second-generation, long-acting anticoagulant rodenticides that interfere with normal blood clotting and cause depression, anorexia, anemia, bloody feces, ataxia (lack of coordination), weakness and subcutaneous hemorrhages among other symptoms.

This fox had obviously consumed rodents that had eaten rat poison, and the cumulative toxic load killed him.

This information will help us stop the use of these dreadful poisons!

Meet five orphaned Gray Foxes and learn more about WildCare's work in our video "The World of WildCare".

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Success in 2009

After months of deliberation the EPA has made a decision to remove 2nd-generation rodenticides from the consumer market! Further, professional pest control operators using these poisons will now be required to use them only inside if exposure to children, pets and non-target animals is possible. This means target rodents will die away from areas where wildlife hunt.

Thank you to everyone who wrote to the EPA and spoke out on this issue!

Read more about WildCare's efforts to combat the poisoning of non-target wildlife (like hawks, owls and coyotes) below:

Patient #0061

WildCare members from spring of 2007 will be familiar with the case of Red-shouldered Hawk #0061, brought to WildCare suffering from anti-coagulant rodenticide poisoning that occurred in Golden Gate Park. This beautiful bird was released back to the park’s botanical garden after intensive treatment for poisoning while TV cameras brought the issue of rodenticide poisoning to public attention.

Several other hawks brought to WildCare had not been so lucky; they died within days of rodenticide poison being used in the area. Red-shoulder #0061 became the ambassador for a policy change by the San Francisco Department of the Environment, which now prohibits the use of certain rodent poisons outdoors to protect the park’s wildlife.

Second-Generation Rodenticides

Anti-coagulant poisons, known as “second-generation” or “singlefeed” rodenticides, are sold under various product names, and contain the active ingredients brodifacoum, bromadiolone and difethialone among others. They are strong enough to kill a rodent “after a single feeding.” A rodent consumes the poison at a bait station, and then slowly dies of internal hemorrhage. What makes these poisons so dangerous to wildlife is that, although a single feeding of poison will eventually kill, it takes four to seven days for the rodent to die. During this time rodents can consume more bait, raising the level of toxins in their bodies to a dose lethal to the larger animals that eat rodents and carrion, such as hawks, owls, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks and coyotes.

San Francisco Ban; EPA Assessment

Patient #0061’s situation caused an uproar in San Francisco and led the city’s Department of the Environment to enact an immediate temporary ban on the use of “second-generation” anti-coagulant rodenticides in outdoor areas like Golden Gate Park. In May of 2007 the San Francisco Commission on the Environment voted to make this ban permanent, adding these rodent poisons to the city’s Restricted Poison list.

In the face of evidence that a wide variety of species including threatened and endangered species are dying from eating poisoned rodents, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also started considering limiting the use of these poisons throughout the country. WildCare supporters and others sent hundreds of letters to the EPA in favor of this ban.

When is Poison Appropriate

To those of us who work with wildlife, the answer is obvious: never. Poisoning alone never eliminates a pest animal problem, and the collateral damage outweighs all quick-fix fantasies. Poison used with other nuisance wildlife management techniques may seem effective, but if you use the other techniques, you won’t need the poisons anyway.

Outwitting Critters

Our houses, gardens, vineyards and farms are a great source of free food for hungry animals. The gardeners in Golden Gate Park believe that rodent populations are increased by park visitors who feed ducks and squirrels.

The only real way to eliminate pest animals is to remove what attracts them. Wildlife population size is determined by the amount of food and habitat available. Bird feeders provide gourmet dining for rodents. To prevent rodents from feasting at the feeder at night, place the feeder on a pole and clean up any seed that falls to the ground.

To exclude rodents from buildings, seal entrance locations. Keep a lid on trash pails and compost containers. The EPA agrees, noting in its Proposed Risk Mitigation Decision for Nine Rodenticides that “without habitat modification to make areas less attractive to commensal rodents, even eradication will not prevent new populations from recolonizing the habitat.”
In Golden Gate Park, part of the problem was solved by volunteers who made wire baskets to cover the plants the rodents were eating. Another solution the park plans to adopt is to add a trash pick-up on Saturdays, so that cans aren’t full when Sunday park visitors arrive.

Nature’s Best Rodent Control

Rodents play an important role in nature. Removing rodent food sources and habitat, while encouraging natural predators, is the only permanent solution. WildCare encourages natural forms of rodent control through exclusion and predator support. One family of hungry barn owls can consume more than 3,000 rodents in a nesting season. Placing a Hungry Owl Project nest box on your property can help control rodent populations throughout your neighborhood and beyond, while maintaining the naturally balanced food chain.

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