Mouse and Rat Poison: What They're Not Telling Us
Most people can identify with the scenario of finding a mouse in their home and wanting to do whatever it takes to remove it. Little do these people know that the warnings on rodent-killing products should also read: “Keep out of reach of all things great and small, bright and beautiful,” because they really are "death in a box." The manufacturers are not required to divulge, however, just exactly how lethal their toxic chemical concoction really is.
This article will provide extensive information about just what exactly is in these rodenticides, why you should think twice about using them, and what other options you have to solve your rodent problems.
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, however, 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 Rodents Pose a Threat to Us?
Rats and mice can spread diseases, like hantavirus (see table below). They carry lice, fleas, mites, ticks, and other tiny critters on their skin and fur.
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.
As you can see, getting rid of rodents in our homes and on our farms is beneficial in many ways.
Diseases Caused by Rats and Mice in North and South America
How It's Spread
deer and white-footed mouse
hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
dust contaminated with rodent urine or droppings
rats and mice
ingesting food or water contaminated by rodent urine
rats and mice
bite from an infected rodent
rats and mice
contaminated food or water
rats and mice
handling an infected dead animal
How First-Generation Rodent Poisons Work
Also known as rodenticides, first-generation rodent poisons 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.
Though first-generation concoctions have a good kill rate, it was believed 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.
How Second-Generation Rodenticides Work
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 then become weapons of collateral destruction.
Why Second-Generation Rodenticides Are So Dangerous
One of the main problems with this method is that there is nothing quite as tempting as a rat that is stumbling and slow to run away. As a consequence, any of their natural predators that come across this weakened animal in search of a snack will also be poisoned after ingesting them.
This includes owls, hawks, vultures, eagles, raccoons, foxes, and yes, even the family dog or cat! Wild birds that feed on rodents, as well as our pets, are especially vulnerable; but all animals die horribly excruciating deaths after ingesting second-generation rodent killers.
Rising Tolerance Levels and Collateral Damage
The rate of rodent kill is high for the first two years or so when using second-generation poisons. After that, however, the tolerance level is quickly reached and rodents multiply faster than ever!
Moreover, 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, 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, came up positive for rodenticides, according to Audubon Magazine.
Second-Generation Poisons Can Hurt More Than Just Their Intended Rodent Targets
Second-generation rodenticides kill the animals very slowly, poisoning them over a long duration of time. Consequently, any predator that then ingests these rodents will also become poisoned and likely die a very painful death. These affected predators can include everything from owls, hawks, vultures, eagles, raccoons and foxes, and yes, even the family dog or cat!
The Dangers Posed to Our Children and Our Families
Our precious children are being poisoned by this stuff as well. 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 effects 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.
Efforts Taken to Stop the Use of Second-Generation Rodent Poisons
In 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency declared that: “Second-Generation Rodenticides posed an unreasonable risk to children, pets and wildlife.” It gave manufacturers three 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!
Unfortunately, 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 three that have refused to cease production of these poisons are:
- 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.
- Liphatech, producer of Generation, Maki, Rozol, and d-Con, which contains brodifacoum. They also make Lysol, Woolite, and French’s Mustard!
- Reckitt Benckiser, which is trying to drag this out in court, while innocents continue to die.
Alternatives to RodenticidesClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
- You can also opt for using 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 are also an option. Though 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 six devices. The use of a surge protector with six outlets is convenient in this case.
Avoid Using Any Second-Generation Rodent Killers
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 immediately talk to the store manager. Alert them to the risks these indiscriminate killers pose to our children, pets, and wildlife. Urge their immediate removal!
You can also contact the EPA and caution them to cancel general-use registration of second-generation rodenticides.
Install Barn Owl Nesting Boxes Around Your Home
Owls and raptors in general are extremely efficient at reducing rodent populations without using toxic means. You can increase the likelihood of these natural predators helping out your cause by adding barn owl nesting boxes around your home. 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!
You can even help support R.A.T.S. (Raptors Are The Solution) or the Hungry Owl Project. The latter is an organization based in California, but it can 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.
Use Peppermint Oil as a Repellent
I have successfully used peppermint oil from the grocery store 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—and it's 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.