Mouse and Rat Poison: What They're Not Telling Us
Eeek! It’s a mouse! Nasty little bacteria-laden, disease-carrying critter; hop in the car and down to the local hardware we go. Shelves full of ‘death in a box’ all with familiar labels: Hot Shot, d-Con, Generation, Rozol, etc. conveniently stacked for easy selection. What the heck, just pick one. Home again, and read the instructions: “Keep out of reach of children and pets”. No problem, we’ll tuck the bait way back under that bottom shelf out of harm’s way. There, that mouse will soon be toast!
Most people can identify with this scenario. Little do they know that the warning should also read “Keep out of reach of all things great and small, bright and beautiful”, because it really is death in a box. The manufacturers are not required to divulge just exactly how lethal their toxic chemical concoction really is.
What Are Rodents?
Rodents are small mammals that share 'teeth' in common. That is, they have both upper and lower incisors that continue to grow. As you might imagine, to keep their teeth from overgrowing they must continually gnaw on something. Unfortunately, that usually means roots, fruits, seeds and plant stems fall victim to their dental needs. It can also mean your walls, floors and household electric and vehicle wiring will suffer expensive damage. There are a few rodents that are the exception to the rule and only eat fish or insects.
In my neck of the woods the rodents include deer mice, brown mice, voles, moles, possums, black and brown rats, grey, red and flying squirrels, chipmunks, wild mink, ferrets and gophers. I’m sure there are others; I just haven’t seen them yet!
Why Do We Need to Kill Rodents?
If you own a vineyard, for example, gophers can mean big bucks down the drain. Their burrowing messes up your root and soil systems, and they gnaw on your grapevine stems causing the plants to die. Rats and mice can spread diseases, like Hantavirus. (See Table) They carry lice, fleas, mites, ticks and other tiny critters on their skin and fur. As you can see, getting rid of rodents in our homes and on our farms is beneficial in many ways.
Diseases Caused by Rats & Mice in N. & S. America according to the Center for Disease Control
deer and white-footed mouse
Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome
dust contaminated w/ rodent urine or droppings
rats and mice
ingesting food or water contaminated by rodent urine
rats and mice
bite from infected rodent
rats and mice
rats and mice
handling infected dead animal
First Generation Rodent Poison
Also known as Rodenticides, they contain chemicals that specifically inhibit Vitamin K, which prevents blood from clotting naturally. Warfarin is the key ingredient. If you’ve ever had surgery and had to take a blood thinner to prevent clots afterwards, then you have most likely ingested that chemical. When used to kill rodents, their blood becomes so thin that it cannot carry necessary oxygen to the brain, nervous system and organs and the animal dies.
First generation concoctions have a good kill rate; however it was thought that the critters might develop a tolerance to them. Thus the World Health Organization became involved and requested the manufacture of something much more toxic. Imperial Chemical Industries of London obliged and developed the new ‘super rodent killer’, also known as second generation rodenticide.
Second Generation Rodenticides
The second generation mouse and rat poisons kill much more slowly, but employ the same strategy: vitamin K is inhibited to keep blood from clotting. That means the rodent will probably go back for seconds, thirds, fourths and so on. By the time the rodent actually dies, it will have ingested many times the lethal dose. They become weapons of collateral destruction. There is nothing quite as tempting as a rat that is stumbling and slow to run away. Any of their natural predators will also be poisoned after ingesting them. Those include owls, hawks, vultures, eagles, raccoons, foxes; and yes, even the family dog or cat! Wild birds that feed on rodents, and our pets are especially vulnerable; but all animals die horribly excruciating deaths after ingesting second generation rodent killers.
Tolerance Level Quickly Reached!
What’s more, the rate of rodent kill is high for the first 2 years or so of use of second generation poisons. After that the tolerance level is quickly reached and rodents multiply faster than ever! There is no backup plan. Birds of prey that eat the poisoned rodents, or feed them to their young, develop tumors, bleed through their skin, become too lethargic to hunt, and either die from the effects of the poison, or starve to death. Our natural biological controls, specifically owls, hawks and vultures, badgers, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats and skunks, among others, are being killed off by poison at an alarming rate. In fact, 79.1 percent of birds and mammals tested by Wildcare, a rehabilitation facility in San Rafael, California, were positive for rodenticides (according to Audubon Magazine , January-February, 2013 issue.)
More They're Not Telling Us
Our precious children are being poisoned by this stuff. Keeping the bait out of their immediate reach is no guarantee kids will not come in contact with it. The rodents are so slow to die that they move around the house for days, all the while trailing the bait along with them on their feet, tails and fur. This stuff remains stored in the liver, so there’s no telling how far-reaching its affects will be on our future generations.
Veterinarians will tell you about the high poisoning rate in the pets they see due to the use of these lethal chemical concoctions. Our pets are members of our family. Losing them this way and knowing it could have been prevented is just unbearable. It’s a very sad lesson to be learned.
The Good News
In 2008, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) declared that: “Second Generation Rodenticides posed an unreasonable risk to children, pets and wildlife.” It gave manufacturers 3 years to stop selling the more lethal rodent poison directly to households. New York City is solidly behind this order, and agrees that the use of second generation rodenticides as a rodent control is unnecessarily risky to humans and wildlife. This is a strong endorsement coming from a rodent-infested metropolitan area!
The Bad News
BUT, the EPA left a giant loophole you could drive a train through: large quantity sales such as those to farmers, and tamper-proof bait boxes that are used by exterminators were exempted from the cease-to-sell order. The result is that predators and scavengers are just as poisoned from those rodents that have eaten from exterminators’ ‘sealed bait boxes’, or bait set out by farmers.
To date, 26 out of 29 manufacturers of second generation mouse and rat baits have complied with the EPA order. The 3 that have refused to cease production of these poisons are:
1. Spectrum Group, a maker of pet care products (ironically) as well as ‘Hot Shot’ mouse and rat baits with the active ingredient BRODIFACOUM, which is the most deadly to pets and wildlife.
2. Liphatech, producer of ‘Generation’, ‘Maki’, ‘Rozol’ and ‘d-Con’ which contains BRODIFACOUM.
They also make Lysol, Woolite and French’s Mustard!
3. Reckitt Benckiser, which is trying to drag this out in court, while innocents continue to die.
How We Can Help Stop the Killing of our Natural Rodent Controls
· USE safe alternatives to poison baits like old fashioned multi-use snap traps or covered disposable snap traps (so you don’t have to see or handle the dead critter), which are available at the same store where the toxic chemicals are found!
· Humane pest traps-- that’s what I use. Add peanut butter as bait, and take the live rodent to a location at least a mile away to release. You don’t want them to end up back at your house! Also do make sure the release location is away from homes or farms. Be sure not to make problems for someone else!
· Electronic rodent killers. These seem to have mixed results depending upon where they are placed in conjunction with the actual rodent point of entry. More than one is usually needed to cover the area in question. Quite often our attic is mouse central, especially in the autumn and springtime. In order to make sure the whole area will receive the electronic shockwave that is the rodent repellent, we need to set up 6 devices. The use of a surge protector with 6 outlets is convenient in this case.
· Make a Habit of reading Labels. DO NOT BUY RODENT BAITS that contain any of these active ingredients:
“BRODIFACOUM”, which is especially harmful to pets and birds
If you see any of these second generation killers on the store shelves, PLEASE RUN, DON’T WALK to the store manager. Alert him/her to the risks these indiscriminant killers pose to our children, pets and wildlife. Urge their immediate removal!
· Contact the EPA and caution them to cancel ‘general-use registration of second-generation Rodenticides’:
Email: Wasem.Russell@epamail.epa.gov and refer to Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0718
Add Barn Owl Nesting Boxes
Owls and raptors in general are extremely efficient at reducing rodent populations without using toxic means. Barn Owls in particular benefit from nest boxes and are non-territorial If there is plenty of food, there will be no squabblers--just a rodent feast!
Support 'RATS' RaptorsAreTheSolution.org or the Hungry Owl Project. This organization is based in California, but will provide information about whether owl nesting boxes would benefit your situation. Their volunteers build, distribute, install, monitor and clean owl nest boxes to aid farmers with their rodent infestations. They have been hugely successful.
Owl Nest Boxes
- Owls - Sites to help you build or buy an Owl nest box or nest platform - The Owl Pages
Owls - Sites to help you build or buy an Owl nest box or nest platform - The Owl Pages
- Barn Owl, Barn Owls, Barn Owl Box, Barn Owl Boxes, Natural Rodent Control, Pocket Gopher Control, Vi
Use Peppermint Oil!
I have successfully used peppermint oil from the grocery store (baking isle--flavorings) to keep mice out of my house.
Just use cotton balls and saturate them with the oil. Place them at possible entry points in your attic, basement or wherever rodents are a problem. You will have to remember to add more freshly saturated cotton balls every couple of weeks or so. But, hey, the place smells like Christmas all the time! Totally non-toxic, too.
Forewarned is forearmed. Make sure to relay this information to anyone who might be considering the use of any Rodenticide. You will be saving countless innocent lives and helping to restore the natural balance.
Sources: Audubon Magazine , January-February, 2013 Issue; Connie Smith (Grandma Pearl)