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

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