B.C. wildlife, primarily owls, have been dying after eating rodents poisoned with second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides. (Metro Creative photo)

Temporary ban on rodent poison will help owls and other wildlife

Rodenticide use can harm and often kill birds, pets and other wildlife

Using pesticides to control rats is one of many options to manage infestations. However, B.C. wildlife, primarily owls, have been dying after eating rodents poisoned with second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides.

Last week the B.C. government has announced a temporary ban on the widespread sale and use of second-generation rodenticides which will help protect owls, pets and other wildlife from secondary poisoning while government conducts a science review and looks for alternatives.

Effective July 21, 2021, the sale and use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARS) has been prohibited for 18 months. SGARS are more powerful than the previous generation of rodenticides, but they also increase the risk of the secondary poisoning of other animals who consume poisoned rodents.

“We share the concerns of many British Columbians that rodenticide use is harming, and too often killing, birds, pets and other wildlife,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “That is why we are taking action to reduce risks, conduct a review and step up our efforts to reduce unnecessary pesticide use, rather than safer alternatives.”

The ministry’s Rodenticide Action Plan also includes increased public information activities to raise awareness of the risks of SGARS, the benefits of alternatives and the promotion of the integrated pest management system to reduce unnecessary pesticide use.

Exemptions to the temporary ban include when use supports agricultural production and food safety. Health services, such as hospitals, food processing and storage facilities, restaurants and grocery stores, are also exempt. Agricultural operators may still use SGARs with proof of qualifying agricultural status and while following the integrated pest management principles, including prevention and full consideration of alternatives, with use of pesticides as a last resort when other measures are not effective.

A science review will be undertaken to better understand the root causes of secondary poisoning, and review practices in other jurisdictions as it develops recommendations for future policy.

“Thousands of British Columbians have voiced their concerns over the use of rodenticides and the harmful impacts they have on owls and other animals,” said Deanna Pfeifer, an organizer with the Rodenticide Free B.C. campaign. “I am pleased to know the minister is acknowledging the detrimental effects rodenticides can have on our ecosystem and look forward to an increased awareness of alternative pest management approaches that are safer, more humane and more effective in the long term.”

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