Concerns about Rodenticide Impact on Wildlife Prod Efforts to Curb Use
• Opponents Want to Block Sales and Mount Education Effort
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Malibu residents are renewing the call for a citywide ban on the sale and use of anti-coagulant rodenticides following necropsy results that indicate a young female mountain lion found dead in Point Mugu State Park in October had low levels of two anticoagulant compounds that are found in rodenticide in its system.
Laboratory tests were conducted on the remains of P-24, the year-old mountain lion who had
been observed traveling through the Santa Monica Mountains with her mother and brother, by the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory and the University of California at Davis. The results indicate "exposure to two anticoagulant compounds commonly found in rodenticides, though at relatively low levels," a press release from the National Park Service states. "Anticoagulants lead to uncontrolled bleeding and have been confirmed as the cause of death for two other mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains during the last ten years. The exposure occurs indirectly, such as when the lions eat animals that have eaten the poison," the release continues. The press release states that the results of the tests "were inconclusive, but did indicate rodenticide exposure. Because the carcass was partially decomposed, the actual cause of death cannot be determined." "Unfortunately, we'll never know exactly why this animal died," said Seth Riley, an expert on urban wildlife with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. "Mountain lions in this region face a number of challenges to survive and rodenticide exposure is certainly a common—and entirely preventable—health risk for local wildlife."
Anticoagulant rat poison causes the animal that ingests it to bleed to death internally. Animals that depend on rodents as a food source become victims of secondary poisoning. Even at nonfatal doses the chemical can build up in the animal's system causing immune system problems that can include sarcoptic mange and frequently lead to a slow death.
Members of the Malibu Agricultural Society recently addressed the Malibu City Council on the issue of anticoagulant rodenticide poisoning and are currently campaigning to stop the sale of rodenticides at the Malibu CVS store. "CVS is the only store [in Malibu] that sells it at this time,"
Malibu Agricultural Society secretary Kian Schulman told the Malibu Surfside News. "We are requesting the removal of rodenticide poisons from the Malibu CVS store, as Malibu is in a sensitive location, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, with abundant vulnerable wildlife," a letter from the Malibu Agri cultural Society to a CVS representative states.
The Malibu Agricultural Society, founded in 2010 to promote sustainable home agricultural practices, according to the group's website, joins a growing number of organizations and individuals seeking a ban on the chemicals.chemicals.
Malibu resident Dave Anawalt, the owner of Malibu Hardware Supply, removed all anticoagulant rodenticides from his store last year, after a Malibu resident brought in an article in the Malibu Surfside News outlining the impact of the chemicals on bobcats and other urban predators.
However, activists say home use of the rodenticides represents a only a small portion of the problem. Public agency and government usage may be far greater.
Malibu residents have unsuccessfully protested the extensive use of rodenticides at Malibu High School to eliminate ground squirrels.
The Topanga Creek Watershed Committee has protested for more than 10 years the use of rodenticides and herbicides by government agencies that in clude Caltrans, State Parks and the Mountains Restoration Trust. "Many of us are not fond of Arundo donax, wild mustard, mice, or gophers— but killing them by introducing poison into our environment is an idea whose time has passed. It's time to move on," wrote Ben Allanoff, chair of the Topanga Creek Watershed Committee, in June, when the organization launched a petition protesting the practice at http://signon.org/sign/no-more-poison
Following the announcement of the Malibu Agricultural Society's campaign, Raptors Are the Answer, a Bay Area anti-rat poison activism group, contacted the Malibu organization. RATS applauded the efforts of the Malibu group and invited them to partner with them. "There is a petition to the EPA on our website, http://www.raptorsarethesolution.org, asking them to cancel these products,"
Lisa Owens Viani of RATS wrote. "And the Center for Biological Diversity is sending a group sign-on letter to the California Deptartment of Pesticide Registration asking them to not renew registration of anticoagulant rodenticides. We want to see all anticoagulant rodenticides taken off the market due to their dangerous impacts on children, pets, and wildlife," the RATS website states. "Once all of these dangerous anticoagulant products are removed from store shelves, we will have succeeded in putting ourselves "out of business."
Until that time, we will continue our advocacy and education efforts. Stopping rodenticide use by professional extermination services may call for a more vocal campaign.
The National Park Service recommends the following alternatives to rodenticides "Controlling rodents with poisons may seem like quick and easy, however, safer and more environmentally friendly options are available:
Use common wooden snap traps; remove shelters for rodents to live in; clearing thick vegetation, such as ivy, and removing rubbish piles in the yard eliminates habitat for rodents; rodent proof buildings by sealing all openings.
Amazingly, rodents can squeeze through pretty small holes—.25 inch for mice and .50 inch for rats;
eliminate potential food or water sources. For intance, do not leave pet food out for rodents (and other wildlife) to snack on, remove fruit that have fallen in the ground, and secure materials rodents may eat in trashcans or rodentproof containers."
The NPS also recommends encouraging the presence of owls. "Mount nest boxes or perch sites for owls. Owls are a great, natural alternative to rodent management.
Like bobcats, owls are carnivores feeding mainly on rodents. For more information on installing a box or perch, go to www.owlnestboxes.com or www.wildwingco.com.