By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Some familiar rodenticides may be scurrying off the market as the EPA tries to improve the safety of pest poisons.

D ConIn recent years, the agency has asked all makers of rodent poisons to encase them in tamper-free containers or baits, to protect children. Most companies obliged. But d-Con had not complied with all of its offerings, triggering the EPA to begin to withdraw licensing for 12 d-Con products. EPA announced the crackdown in January, but hearings continue this month on the issue.

The impetus for these changes: About 10,000 kids are accidentally poisoned by loose rat and mouse poison every year in the U.S..

Now comes the confusing part. Several highly toxic d-CON products will remain on the market, including some of the classic faux grain poison that causes animals to bleed to death internally. These anti-coagulant poisons are being removed from the “consumer” market, but will remain available for agricultural use (and critics say, available to home owners who seek them out).

Wildlife organizations have called on the EPA to protect wildlife, just as they’ve stepped up to protect children, but so far that’s not happened.

Pest poisons are not just cruel, causing animals a protracted, painful death, they ripple through ecosystems. Often the first animal killed has consumed a dose that’s beyond lethal, because the poison takes a few days to do its damage. Later, when a non-targeted animal consumes the carcass of the poisoning victim, it too ingests what can be a fatal dose, even though this animal is further up the food chain. This negative bio-magification affects all types of birds, those that feed on the poison directly and scavengers, as well as larger mammals.

Then there’s the pet issue. It’s likely that the numbers of dogs and cats suffering accidental poisonings exceeds that of children.

Pest Control Have a Hart

Havahart makes cages for rats and mice, and for larger pests.

Here’s what one vet advised in a discussion on Blurt It:

I’m a veterinarian and the most common poisoning by far that we see is when a dog eats rat or mouse poison.  The dog can easily bleed to death (either internally or through the nose, mouth, digestive tract or urinary tract) as a result of eating the poison.  If you catch them within an hour of ingesting it, do give them hydrogen peroxide by mouth (about 1 teaspoon per ten pounds of body weight) to get them to vomit up the poison.  Then get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.  They will need a vitamin K1 injection (under the skin, NOT in the muscle as someone previously wrote) and monitoring for lack of blood clotting.  Bring along the container of the mouse poison so you can show it to the vet.  Some types of mouse or rat poison can stay active in their system for four to six weeks, so your pet may need to stay on Vitamin K1 capsules for that length of time.  Don’t fool around with this, it may cost your dog it’s life!

You don’t have to use toxic chemicals to ward off pests. Here are five more eco-friendly ways to keep your gerbil’s country cousins at bay.

Pest Control live mouse trap

Tom Cat’s Live Catch Mouse Trap.

1 —  Cage traps. Now before you dismiss this idea of capturing a pest and releasing it back into the wild as silly, consider at least that the cage can be reused, again and again. We’ve decamped several mice from the garage with a Havahart cage that keeps on clicking. We release them into some nearby woods, hopefully far enough away to discourage a second migration to our house.

We’ve also had experience with squirrels. A family had moved into a relative’s attic. Have-A-Heart came to the rescue. Our relative wore gloves as she handled the cage, to avoid getting bitten. A quick drive to a nearby park, and voile, the houseguest was dispatched. Now granted, she had to do this several times. But then the family was relocated. It took a little more effort than killing the poor squirrels. But imagine the effort of crawling around your attic to find the deceased animals. Yuck.

Pest Control -- Red Fox Urine

Using natural methods to fight varmints.

2 — Fox Urine. There we said it. If you garden you may already know this trick. It’s a deterrent to any small rodent that’s using a particular opening to get into your house, garage or garden. You can buy fox urine at most serious farmer’s supply stores, and you can special order it online. Hunters may be familiar with this potion; it’s sold as a way to mask their scent. For rodent control, soak a rag and place it where it will deter your unwanted friend. A few dabs will do.

Pest Control -- Owl crop

“Owls” can frighten many pests. These scarecrows are humane and affordable.

3 — Scarecrows. Another way to keep small rodents from feeling comfortable on your patio, is to install a  scarecrow. In this case, consider an owl figure. You may have seen these installed in the rafters of stadiums and other outdoor venues. It’s the eco-friendly way to discourage rodents and scavenger birds like pigeons.  The installation pictured above is at a community ball park in Frisco, Texas. Plastic owls are a lot safer for kids.

Pest Control -- Rat Chaser

Victor’s “PestChaser”.

4 — Prevention. It’s the most humane policy for addressing small critters, as well as spiders, snakes and other things that creep you out when they appear underfoot. Keep your chicken feed, dog and cat food sealed up tight. Here’s where a plastic container with a tightly sealed lid can be useful. Don’t love plastic, but this might be one good exception. Also, don’t feed your dogs and cats outside, if you can help it. Cover compost heaps. Don’t accumulate trash, etc. etc. The best pest is the one that’s not coming to dinner at your house, right?

Another way to shoo pests, is to chase them off with sonic sounds. We’ve not tested it, so we cannot vouch for whether this is effective. But there it is, the Sonic Rat Chaser. Email us (use the byline above) if you have any stories about this one.

5 — Kill traps. This isn’t something we’re advocating. But pragmatically, we know that sometimes people will want to get rid of the pest, permanently. We’d like to think they tried humane methods first, but maybe they’re overrun with rats or mice. Using a deadly trap is better for the environment than poison. If you’re a rural operator, you may have a place you can toss the carcass and it will be safe for wildlife to eat. On Backyard Chickens, we read about a chicken owner who trapped mice with a reusable trap, and gave the carcasses to wild birds. At least this sustainable, a human-assisted acceleration of what happens in nature anyway.
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