Do you have rats or mice? They carry diseases like the plague, dysentery and typhoid. Recently, droppings and urine from deer mice in Curry Village and in Yosemite exposed 20,000 National Park visitors to Hanta Virus with many being sent to the hospital and three dying of the disease. The Park Service is using snap traps to reduce the population in Curry Village where the people are.
What does that have to do with the Santa Monica Mountains? It’s all about what we do to kill our rodent pests. If you go to CVS for help with a rodent problem, do you ask for a rodenticide? You probably don’t ask for brodifacoum or bromadiolone.Those are the new high dosage rat poisons loaded with extra amounts of warfarin or Coumadin. They are in each of the most popular poisons. If you have a service take care of things, that’s what they use, the pest industry calls them singlefeeds. Most of us just want something for the rats and want the best bang for our buck. With these new more powerful anticoagulants, instead of several days and several doses, a rat will take two or three days to die with a single feed. It wanders off near your house dehydrated and looking for water and dies outside. Of course during this time it is a much easier target for local predators, like owls or your dog. Or cat. The rat may also eat more poison bait because the bait is easy to get at.
Singlefeeds have what is called a very long half-life, meaning that the rat’s body is a storage bin for the poison. An owl or a fox or a bobcat or a coyote which has eaten several poisoned rats gets a large amount of poison stored in its body. The poison does not go away for a long time. A recent NPS bobcat study showed as many as 30 bobcats a year die of Mange in the area studied. All of the dead bobcats studied had large amounts of rat poison in their blood stream. Also an owl study in Canada showed a large number of owls had been killed by rat poison after eating poisoned mice. That happens around here too.
Mountain Lions are predators at the top of the food chain and can eat whatever they want. While mule deer is their main food source, they eat other animals as well. In doing research for this article, I spoke to an American Indian at the Chumash center in the Conejo Valley who witnessed a fight between a bobcat and a lion on their property. Once the dust cleared, he found that the bobcat had won. I suspect that they both had anti-coagulants in their blood streams based on current NPS research, so whoever was the meal would be the poison donor. Essentially every mountain lion collared and released by the NPS has been found to have anti-coagulants like brodifacoum in their blood stream. P-17 died at a few months of age of neglect and malnourishment. It had a large amount of ant-coagulant rat poison in its blood stream. P-3 and P-4 were found near the 118 freeway in the Simi Hills a few years ago. They had bled to death and died of mange with large sores all over their bodies. The NPS found that they had died of anti-coagulant pest control poisons.
Can homeowners here make a difference? We can remove garbage, BBQ left overs and bird seed. We can do a better job of rodent proofing our buildings. I know I don’t want rats in the night. We can also stop using rodenticides. The problem, clearly, is how then will we get rid of our disease carrying rodents? It turns out that there are several alternatives, most of which are not as convenient as d-Con, or just hiring some service. The Park Service in Yosemite is using snap traps to limit the number of deer mice in Curry Village, those good old fashioned spring loaded, wire head banger/neck snappers. My neighbors recoil in horror from the idea of picking up a dead rat in a trap. In fact it is a very bad idea, by the way. Don’t ever touch the rat, they have fleas even when they are dead. Use a grabber like what you may have to reach up to get something from a high shelf. Then don’t use it for anything else. Also, wear long sleeves, long pants and long gloves. I use the biggest pliers I have to grip the trap and a second long handled pair to open the wire.
Check out container traps. The mouse or rat goes inside the box and you don’t see it. You don’t touch it either. You just have to pay more money because you have to throw away the trap along with the dead rat. Then there are sticky tray traps which hold the rat’s feet till it dies of starvation and thirst. You have to throw that trap away as well. Then there’s an electronic Rat Zapper, an electric shock device which is the most humane so far because it’s quick. When you see the red light come on you take it to the trash and dump out the dead rat. And it’s reusable. It’s also $42.00. You can also encourage owls, hawks and friendly snakes like gopher snakes. They are all natural rodent predators. A barn owl can eat 1000 rats per season. A gopher snake eats about a rat a week. If you have to use poisons, you should pick up the dead and dying rats before your dog does.
If you have gophers, there is Gopher Blaster an oxygen-propane explosive device that starts at $1000. It sends a 5000ft/second shock wave through their tunnels wreaking death and destruction everywhere and blows holes in your yard. Or you can pour Gopher Goo down their tunnels and plug them up. Goo granules hold water, too. So, d-Con is easy and cheap and the others are more expensive and not as convenient. Make a choice between a couple of Café Mochas and a local Barn Owl.
Incidentally the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has warned companies like d-Con and the parent companies like Spectrum Group and Liphatech about the danger of anti-coagulants to wildlife predators and more than 13,000 children per year. Yes children are affected by anit-coagulant rat poisons, just look it up in the Center for Disease Control website. The companies just ignore the warnings. It’s hard to make a living selling anti-coagulants if you can’t sell anti-coagulants. Protecting the wildlife is up to aware consumers. Like Patch readers!!!!