Raptors Are the Solution (RATS) grew from the grassroots of my home turf — Berkeley and the East Bay (San Francisco Bay Area). The mission of RATS is to get anticoagulant rodenticides off the shelves. And, in affiliation with Earth Island Institute, they’re working with cities and counties in California to adopt resolutions which discourage the sales of these dangerous products. RATS formed in 2011 after the founders discovered dead, juvenile Cooper’s Hawks in their area, suffering from the lethal effects of poisoned prey.
Beyond the rats and mice these products target, rodenticides like brodifacoum (an anticoagulant) are secondary killers. They poison predators up the food chain — like raptors, coyotes, foxes and any other animal who preys on the affected rodent. The deleterious effects on humans are significant, as well. According to the RATS website, the stats from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that “between 1999 and 2003, 25,549 children under the age of six had poisoning symptoms after exposure to rodenticides. Seventy-two percent had been exposed to a second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide, brodifacoum, the active ingredient in d-Con.”
Raptors Are the Solution engages two important facets of this issue — spreading awareness of the problem while also advocating for ecologically-sane solutions. In essence, they present you with the dark side of what’s happening, then open a window to the bright side of feasible and sound resolutions.
At its simplest, the solution is to stop using rodenticides and instead employ measures that encourage natural balance, like using humane exclusion methods for rodents, or installing nesting boxes for Barn Owls. A significant problem with attracting raptors that keep rodent populations down, is that as long as people continue to use rodenticides, any hawk or owl drawn to the area on its own or through available nesting boxes, is in danger of consuming the lethargic and easy-to-capture prey animals who are themselves suffering prolonged pain of poison.
One of the counter measures employed by RATS right now is this poster … actually one of several posters they’ve been putting up at their Facebook page (for different raptor species). They’re encouraging anyone who knows of raptors in their area, to post these flyers in an effort to protect the nesting birds.
- RATS website: Raptors Are The Solution (RATS).
- Posters and Facebook news and updates: Raptors Are the Solution.
- “Silent Spring” Revisited (PDF – Prairie Wings; Winter 2012/Spring 2013).
- Silent Spring for Bay Area Raptors (San Francisco Chronicle; May 13, 2012)
My Personal Paradigm Shift on Environmental Poisons
I’ve been immersed in environmental education for a long time now, and I genuinely forget that a lot of people don’t consider the local and remote effects of poison when they apply it, whether it’s rodenticide, pesticide, herbicide or any other potent household chemical. I didn’t always know myself. I grew up in a time and environment where slug bait, weed killer and flea bombs were as ubiquitous in homes as were Princess phones.
I moved to a semi-agricultural area of Colorado in my early 20s, where there was regular spraying for ag pests and mosquitos. I didn’t yet understand the concept of drift, or of acute or chronic exposure, of incidental kill, or any of the operative factors involved in these applications. I’d been exposed to various chemicals throughout my life, but it was there that I shifted my perspective on these common poisons — based on what I learned about how they affected human, nonhuman and environmental health.
I left that area only to land in Los Angeles during the height of the aerial medfly bombardment … where spraying choppers thundered over the apartment, and people worried about car paint corroding from the malathion drops. That period in my life was pivotal and radical in terms of changing my ecological awareness. It made me realize how difficult it is for any of us to remove ourselves from constant environmental exposure — and then, how monumentally tragic it is that wild animals have no choice in terms of their exposure or protection from this harm.
It seemed that every event from then on, in rapid succession, was cosmically designed to pummel this awareness into my brain, leading many years later to my work with wildlife where I then had the misfortune to see the effects of rodenticides close up.
When you see an animal, any animal, drooping, convulsing or dying from a poison that didn’t need to be used, it’s impossible not to feel a degree of outrage over the frivolousness with which these products are still used — in 2013 — and so easily purchased at almost any hardware or grocery store. Learning about the various accomplishments already logged by Raptors Are The Solution, I’m inspired and hopeful about the increased compassion for wildlife that will invariably grow from this awareness — and through the persistent actions by those who know and those who care. Thanks to organizations like RATS for their diligent efforts to change local and cultural ideas on how we ought to coexist with other species.