Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Rat Poison Kills More Than Rats

Two turkey vultures were circling overhead this morning riding the thermals of warm air rising over the valley. 

Every fall, turkey vultures migrate through Southern California on their way to wintering and breeding grounds to the south. You would think that passing through the Los Angeles area would be safe, but a silent threat is in our streets and neighborhoods, a threat to predators and especially carrion eaters: rat poison.

Just the other day a friend snapped this photo of a young turkey vulture on the ground in her backyard. It is unusual for a turkey vulture to land on the ground in a confined space. Getting off the ground is not easy for these large birds. 

When the young vulture didn't leave and seemed like it needed help, she contacted the Ojai Raptor Center - a nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates birds of prey. The rescue people came out, contained the young bird and promised to keep my friend informed on the bird's status.

Before the end of the day, she found out that the young vulture died due to rat poison in it system.

A rat had taken poison bait from one of those black, green, or beige bait boxes that are all over town. There is one at the drive-through Starbucks at my corner. They're in the parking structure at the mall. Sometimes they are around people's homes. Twice now, I've seen dead poisoned rats in the drive through at Starbucks; their toxic bodies laying there to be found by another animal. When a rat takes toxic bait, it doesn't die in the box. It wanders out into the world, a poison-laced meal for the animals we need to keep rodents in control. 

red-tailed hawk, photo courtesy of Brad Tanas

From coyotes to mountain lions, red-tailed hawks and great horned owls, to turkey vultures and pets, rat poison kills much more than rats. Let's stop this. Let's find another way to deal with rodent populations. Rat poison doesn't stop rats, it indiscriminately kills other animals.