Raptors Are The Solution (RATS)

:Raptors Are The Solution (RATS)

Raptors Are The Solution (RATS)

2013-03-30T13:08:37+00:00 March 30th, 2013|Pollution, Uncategorized, Wildlife Solutions|5 Comments

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 Poster

Related resources:

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.

RATS Red-shouldered Hawk

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  1. CQ March 30, 2013 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    You write: “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.”

    I am, too, thanks to your pointing to the efforts of groups like RATS.

    Your words, Ingrid, remind me of this quote from Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”

    • ingrid March 31, 2013 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks, CQ, for the origin of that quote. I hear some derivation of it in different contexts, but this is the most complete iteration.

  2. M. Firpi March 30, 2013 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    Yes, I also read yesterday, about bromethalin (Talpirid, Bell Laboratories Inc.) that can be placed directly into the tunnel of moles, voles, and gophers, and many of these products are supposedly registered by the EPA ( Environmental Protection Agency), and unfortunately can be used and commercially sold. Here’s a link to all of them: http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/reregistration/rodenticides/rodent-bait-station.html
    I know Talpirid is just one of the companies now poisoning the moles with artificial baits, and I believe this is the one my relative used to get rid of her moles. All states apparently have different permits as to how they may be sold. But the companies that kill moles, voles and gophers are not even listed in this web page (Talpirid for example), so there seems to be many operating on their own. Since moles are NOT rodents, and voles and gophers live mostly a subterranean life out in the wild, I didn’t see these animals specifically addressed by the EPA website. Only mice and rats are addressed under the “rodenticide” section. Apparently there are other companies selling this poison and using the label “EPA registered”, or “EPA approved” to make their businesses thrive, specifically for the moles, voles, and gophers. As you will see, the link I gave you only states what works with mice and rats.

    • ingrid March 31, 2013 at 12:46 pm - Reply

      There’s another aspect I haven’t resolved — and it’s probably because I can only Google for a few minutes before becoming so disgusted with what I find in terms of animal cruelty. I just shut it down and don’t know the answer yet. But, what is the legality for disposing of bait, dead animals, and bait stations? It doesn’t seem that restricted. There are even disposable bait stations where you throw away the whole container. On the shores of San Francisco Bay, I’ve come upon discarded bait stations in piles of detritus along the beach. How is there not poison residue in, say, a floating bait station, even if the unfortunate dead animals have been removed? Once the animals are “discarded” it appears they end up in the waste disposal system. It’s all so problematic and tragic, in my view.

  3. M. Firpi March 31, 2013 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    Olivia: I like the quote from Baba Dioum very much. Thanks for sharing it. Ingrid, I’m also horrified when I Google all these terms, and it’s like Pandoras’s Box. I probably should have asked my relative whether she tried to find the dead moles around, but she just told me they never came back. She also knows that I disagreed with her strongly for making that decision, so she doesn’t like it when I bring it up. The issue is that, as you say, there is no proper disposal of poisoned “pests” or rodents after they die; and the subterranean “pests”, since they remain underground, they may not be removed at all. The “poisoned treats” for moles, voles, and gophers are extremely dangerous. Any dog, cat, rabbit, or even children can dig them and find them.

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