You Don’t Need to Use Poison: Non-Toxic Alternatives to Rodenticide

by Jaime Carlino, Humboldt Raptors Are The Solution (HumRATS)

Rodenticides, otherwise known as “rat poison,” are split into two categories: non-anticoagulant and anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs). The former kill rodents in a variety of ways while the latter kill rodents by inhibiting the clotting mechanisms of the blood. ARs are further split into first generation anticoagulant rodenticides (FGARs) and second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs). Multiple doses of a FGAR are often needed to kill a rodent, whereas a lethal dose of SGARs can be ingested in a single feeding – making them far more dangerous to wildlife, pets, and children. After ingesting ARs, rodents become sick and disoriented, making them easy prey for wildlife such as hawks, owls, mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, etc. – all of which depend on rodents for food. Scavengers like skunks, raccoons, and opossums, as well as pet dogs and cats, are at risk for secondary poisoning should they consume a poisoned rodent or an animal that has ingested a poisoned rodent. Dogs, cats, and some wildlife species also consume ARs directly. California banned consumer use of SGARs in 2014. However, in a giant loophole, licensed pest control companies are still permitted to administer these toxicants, and so the problem continues. In recent studies reviewed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 70-90% of tested wildlife were found to have SGARs in their systems. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System, more than 10,000 people 20 years or younger were exposed to rodenticides in 2018. 

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Integrated pest management, a sustainable, science-based, decision-making process, addresses rodent control through education, sanitation, structural exclusion, and various methods of non-toxic lethal control. Sanitation must be addressed by securing all trash and food waste in receptacles, as trash cans/dumpsters overflowing with trash serve as a food source for rodents. It is also important that trash cans/dumpsters are in working condition (e.g. no rusted out holes, lids aren’t warped, etc.). We also recommend the following: using a spinning composter, elevating chicken coops by 18 inches, cleaning up fallen seed from bird feeders, not allowing fruits and vegetables to rot on the ground or in raised beds, and removing any dense, low-growing vegetation such as ivy from around your home/business. Structural exclusion can be accomplished by sealing all holes in roofs, walls, foundations, crawl spaces, and sheds in addition to sealing openings around pipes, cables, and electrical wires entering walls or foundations. Rodents can enter your home/business through an opening the size of a dime, so it’s very important to close off all potential rodent access points. 

Treating an established rodent issue can and should be done without using poisons or glue traps. Non-lethal deterrents include cayenne pepper and peppermint soap, which can be sprinkled and sprayed along rodent trails and high-intensity strobe lights in attics or other enclosed spaces. Non-toxic lethal methods of removal include dry ice placed in rodent burrows, CO2 controlled rat and mouse traps that kill instantly and humanely, and electric traps. As a last resort, use snap traps inside a bait box and only in locations inaccessible to other animals (e.g. garage or shed). Humboldt Raptors Are The Solution (HUM-RATS) serves as a resource for people dealing with rodent issues. If you have any questions or would like more detailed information about controlling rodents in and around your home or business, please send an email to humrats@gmail.com