Finding an Alternative to Rodenticide: Use a Better Mousetrap

A gray-colored black rat climbs down rocks.

Black rat (rattus rattus). © 2004 Larry Jon Friesen

Recent news that California will remove second-generation rodenticides from the consumer market was welcome at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Unfortunately, some consumers concluded that they would soon have no way to keep “disease-ridden vermin” away from their homes. That is not the case.

The Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is only restricting consumers’ access to rodenticides whose main active ingredients have caused the most illness and death to non-target wildlife and pets. (Trained, certified applicators will still be able to use the restricted products when necessary to control rodents.) The four chemicals subject to new regulations are known to have caused hundreds – probably thousands – of unintended animal deaths. They also poison more than 10,000 American children each year, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. A primary cause of these tragedies is misuse by consumers – failure to read and follow label directions.

“The best way to keep rodents out of your home, garage or any building is by blocking all the access points rats and mice may use to enter,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Stella McMillin. “It can be as easy as stuffing steel wool into small holes or using a canned foam filler like ‘Great Stuff’ sold at hardware stores.”

Remove things that attract animals, especially food sources such as pet food or children’s snacks, that are left outside or accessible to rodents indoors. Rodents aren’t the only critters food attracts. It also attracts ants, yellow-jackets, raccoons, opossums and – if you’re in coyote, bear or cougar country – even more dangerous wild diners.

Make sure your garbage is secured in a solid container with a tight lid and remove anything rodents might use for shelter, such as wood piles. You can discourage voles, which like to “tunnel” in high grass, by keeping your lawn trimmed. Grass cut at two inches is tall enough to conserve some soil moisture but short enough to provide poor shelter for the vole species in California.

If you still see evidence of rodents, use traps to eliminate the existing rats and mice in or around your home. Traps pose little danger to humans and pets when placed in the small spaces rodents frequent. They are also effective, inexpensive and have no harmful side effects. There are also some environmentally friendly pest control companies that use exclusion and trapping methods rather than poison to keep your home free of rodents.

If you take these actions, still have a rodent problem and feel you must use some kind of poison, please use rodenticide products that DO NOT contain the active ingredients brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone or difenacoum. These are the second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) most likely to kill non-target animals.

DPR’s decision to restrict those four chemicals is based on decades of monitoring studies and mortality incidents. Every monitoring study done in the last 20 years has found widespread exposure of predators and scavengers with SGARs, most commonly brodifacoum.

“We have owls, hawks, foxes and bobcats dying every year from these materials,” McMillin said. “Three endangered San Joaquin kit foxes died last year because they were exposed to SGARs, and those are just the ones we know of. Since animals usually go somewhere like a den to die alone, these are most likely just the tip of the iceberg.”

CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory confirms that these deaths were caused by SGARs but the department can take no further action as long as the products’ use by consumers is legal. Typically these animals are found severely weakened and are taken to wildlife rehabilitators, where they are often bleeding and bruised, and die shortly after.

The EPA has been working with rodenticide manufacturers to develop safer rodent control products that are effective, affordable and widely available. Nearly 30 companies that produce or market mouse and rat poison products in the U.S. have adopted the recommended safety standards, including Tomcat products by Bell Laboratories, Assault brand by PM Resources and Chemisco’s rodenticides.

To learn where you can safely, legally dispose of rodenticides containing the four most dangerous anticoagulants in your area, see the Department of Toxic Substances Control web page on household hazardous waste at www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/UniversalWaste/HHW.cfm.

You can learn more about rodenticides and wildlife on CDFW’s website, at www.dfg.ca.gov/education/rodenticide/.

To learn how to use nature to deal with pests, avoiding toxic chemicals, visit the University of California, Davis webpage on integrated pest management at www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/menu.homegarden.html.

The EPA’s webpage on Safer Rodenticide Products is also an excellent source of information, at www.epa.gov/pesticides/mice-and-rats/.

Media Contacts:
Stella McMillin, CDFW Wildlife Investigations Lab, (916) 358-2954
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Changes to Mountain Lion Policy Yielding Positive Results

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has seen a significant reduction in mountain lions killed as a result of new policy implemented in February without a risk to public safety. The new policy allows for more non-lethal options when there is an interaction between a mountain lion and humans.

“Last year, I directed the department’s leadership team to evaluate our guidelines on how we respond to interactions with mountain lions and bears to determine how we can do better,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “I’m pleased that we have struck the balance and are witnessing fewer mountain lions killed without sacrificing any wildlife officer’s authority to make the correct public safety call for each situation.”

The previous human/wildlife interaction policy evaluation was fast tracked after two notable lethal mountain lion interactions took place at the end of 2012. The stories of these interactions elevated the department’s need to evaluate current policy and to make changes to allow the use of non-lethal means. As part of the evaluation, senior CDFW leadership met with many interested stakeholders from both sides of the issue.

Since the new policy was implemented, CDFW has ordered equipment for field staff to better handle the non-lethal means of handling human wildlife conflict calls. Many of the mountain lion and bear incidents that have happened have resulted in hazing wildlife away from the area of high public use or the darting and relocation of the animal, rather than lethal take. In one incident in January, a lion in Santa Barbara was relocated to the Los Padres National Forest. In another incident in Santa Cruz in May, a lion had fallen into a culvert and could not jump out. He was darted and later released in the Soquel Demonstration State Forest. These are just two of many incidents that have ended non-lethally.

“Sometimes you can find a mountain lion or bear in an unusual location otherwise behaving normally,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Chief Mike Carion. “It isn’t always a threat to public safety. Every situation is unique. We are pleased that this policy allows us to evaluate each situation carefully and to choose a solution which allows a co-existence between humans and wildlife while allowing discretion to act when there is a public safety issue.”

For more information, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/wildlife/lion/.

CDFW Officers Capture and Relocate Mountain Lion in Santa Barbara

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers successfully tranquilized and captured a mountain lion trapped in a Southern California backyard this afternoon.

CDFW wildlife officers responded to a call from a Santa Barbara homeowner approximately 8:30 a.m. to find a lion trapped in a heavily wooded backyard bordering the Santa Barbara Golf Club, two blocks north of U.S. Highway 101. Officers determined that the lion was stable and hidden in heavy brush and trees of the yard and not a public safety threat.

Several CDFW wildlife officers were on scene evaluating the situation, the condition of the lion and gathering resources to ensure the safety of the officers, the public and the animal before attempting any effort to subdue the lion.

Wildlife officers determined the lion was not in a place where it could be chased it back into the wild without taking action. A plan was formulated to tranquilize the animal and return it to open space; there were no plans to destroy the animal.

About 12:30 p.m., wildlife officers successfully used a tranquilizer gun to immobilize the cat and secure it for evaluation and transportation.

The cat is a young, male lion, about 100 pounds and appears to be healthy. Officers took the animal to Los Padres National Forest for release.

A nearby elementary school was notified as a precaution but was not locked down or evacuated.

Media Contacts:
Capt. Mike Stefanak, CDFW Law Enforcement (805) 746-7590
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

DFG Releases Necropsy Results of Mountain Lions Shot in Half Moon Bay

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) today released the results of necropsies performed on two mountain lions shot by DFG law enforcement staff on Dec. 1 in Half Moon Bay.

The necropsies showed the two female lions were about four months old and in poor condition. DFG biologists believe it is unlikely they would have been able to survive in the wild. The two lions weighed about 13 and 14 pounds and their stomachs were empty.

“An incident like this one requires time to gather all the facts. With the necropsy reports, I now realize these animals were smaller than assumed. I regret this unfortunate incident in Half Moon Bay for all involved,” said DFG Director Charlton H. Bonham. “The Department intends to learn from this experience. We take the safety of the public and the welfare of California’s wildlife with the utmost seriousness.”

The two lions were first reported to DFG on Nov. 30 by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office. On the advice of DFG staff, sheriff’s deputies encouraged the lions to move out of the residential area.

The lions returned to Half Moon Bay the following day, Dec. 1. By the time wardens arrived at approximately 2 p.m., the lions were under a backyard deck and the rain was constant. Wardens were only able to see the heads and faces of the lions.

 “In a perfect world we would have had further non-lethal options available. Law enforcement authorities from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and DFG attempted to haze the lions over a 36-hour period but were unable to move the lions out of the area. Our trained wardens work in extraordinarily difficult circumstances every day and this day was no exception,” said DFG Assistant Chief Tony Warrington.

 Had the lions not been put down, it is most likely that they would have been captured and turned over to a facility for permanent housing as they were not believed to be able to survive on their own in the wild.

 “Prior to the incident at Half Moon Bay, I directed the department’s leadership team to evaluate our guidelines on how we respond to interactions with mountain lions and bears and determine how we can do better,” Bonham said. “I look forward to the results of that review, which I expect to receive in January.”

 As part of that review, Bonham and senior DFG leadership met recently with Mountain Lion Foundation executive director Tim Dunbar. A separate meeting between DFG leadership and several other interested stakeholders took place more recently. Bonham reaffirmed his commitment in a call to the Foundation today.

 In addition to challenging conditions that field staff sometimes faces in the field, the search for ways to improve response to wildlife interactions face additional challenges.

 Among those challenges is the scarcity of space in which to rehabilitate wild animals and house them in captivity. Even when suitable captive space is available, difficult decisions must be made regarding when it is appropriate to take a wild animal into permanent captivity.

 Members of the media and interested stakeholders wishing to obtain copies of the necropsy report should contact Mike Taugher at mtaugher@dfg.ca.gov or the phone number listed above.

Media Contacts:        
Mike Taugher DFG Communications, (916) 591-0140

Mountain Lion Attacks Man in Nevada County

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has confirmed a mountain lion attacked a 63-year-old man who was camping northwest of Nevada City. The attack occurred in the early morning hours of July 1.

The man was traveling through Nevada County on a planned hiking trip and decided to stop for the night to sleep. He laid a sleeping bag out along a tributary to the Yuba River. Approximately 1 a.m. he was attacked in his sleeping bag for what he reported to be between 1 ½ to 2 minutes. He said the animal attacked, bit and clawed him through his sleeping bag. He said it bit through the cap he was wearing and his clothes. The animal ceased the attack, looked at him from 15 feet away for another 15-30 seconds, then ran into the night. The man drove himself to a hospital in Grass Valley where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries and later released.

DFG wardens responded to the hospital and verified that he had suffered severe scratches and puncture wounds. They collected several articles of clothing and his sleeping bag, which were analyzed at DFG’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Sacramento. Wardens also responded to the attack scene where they found lion tracks. Specially trained dogs attempted to track the lion but were not successful. They also found the remains of one domestic cat with injuries consistent with a lion attack. The effort to find the lion continues.

California has now had 15 confirmed mountain lion attacks since 1890. A summary of previous mountain lion attacks in California can be found at
http://www.dfg.ca.gov/news/issues/lion/attacks.html.

For more information about how people and lions can coexist, please see http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/lion.html.

Representatives from DFG will be available for comment in front of the Natural Resources Agency building at 1416 9th Street in Sacramento at 1 p.m.

Contacts:
Warden Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095
Mike Taugher, DFG Communications, (916) 591-0140

Mountain Lion Trapped in Santa Monica Killed by Law Enforcement

A mountain lion trapped this morning in downtown Santa Monica had to be killed to protect the safety of the public and first responders.

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) law enforcement was contacted early this morning with a credible report of a juvenile lion near the corner of Second Street and Wilshire Blvd. DFG staff responded immediately to assess the situation and to provide support to the Santa Monica Police Department. Upon arrival the first DFG warden confirmed the animal was a mountain lion and was not near any suitable habitat, so plans were made to attempt a capture so that the animal could be released to open space. Additional DFG law enforcement officers were deployed to assist.

Approximately 9:30 a.m., the lion was darted with a tranquilizer by DFG staff in an attempt to immobilize the cat for transport. DFG staff, Santa Monica Police and the Santa Monica Fire Department used three non-lethal methods – the tranquilizer dart, pepper ball, and fire hoses – to discourage the lion from leaving the contained area until the tranquilizer took effect. However, the lion began to run and could not be kept within the safe containment area established by DFG and police. The lion was shot by Santa Monica Police officers to prevent it from running through a populated area where pedestrians and cars were present.

“Our hope is always to be able to return wild animals back to their natural habitat,” said DFG Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf.  “However, public safety is our number one priority. We appreciate the cooperation and assistance that the Santa Monica Police provided, and support the decisions that were made in the field.”

The lion died at the scene and was transported to a lab for necropsy.

It is unknown how or why the lion made its way to such a busy urban area.

Media Contacts:
Paul Hamdorf, DFG Law Enforcement, (562) 626-0025
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

Southern California City, Nonprofit Organizations Raise Lion Poacher Reward

Media Contacts:
Patrick Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 508-7095
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944
Tony Coroalles, Calabasas City Manager, (818) 224-1606

A city and two nonprofit groups’ combined commitments more than double the reward offered for information on a brutal mountain lion killing. The City of Calabasas in eastern Los Angeles County has matched the $5,000 reward being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of poachers who killed a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains last month. Two other groups put up an additional $1,700 for a total reward of $11,700.

“Our community is stunned that someone would intentionally kill one of our rare mountain lions,” said Calabasas City Councilmember Mary Sue Maurer. “We are determined to do everything we can to bring the perpetrator to justice.”

The CalTIP Foundation (Californians Turn In Poachers and Polluters) offered the initial $2,500, followed by the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust, who matched that amount.

The Ventura County based Animal Rescue Team, Inc. pledged $1,500 and San Diego’s Mountain Lion Foundation added the additional $200.

The CalTIP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity that supports anti-poaching and anti-pollution enforcement efforts in California. Tax-deductible donations to support the CalTIP Foundation can be sent to CalTIP Inc., PMB #125, 417 Mace Blvd., Suite J, Davis, CA 95618.

The lion was discovered on Sept. 11, 2011 after DFG and the National Park Service received a call of a dead mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains. DFG game wardens determined that the lion did not die of natural causes and opened an investigation.

Mountain lions are designated as a “specially protected mammal” in California, and it is illegal to hunt or trap them.

DFG and the National Park Service are seeking information related to the lion death and the parties responsible. Anyone with any information regarding this case should call the CalTIP hotline at 1-888-334-2258.

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