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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Publisher’s Notebook

• Banning Rodenticides: The Next Hurdle •

BY ANNE SOBLE

That yet another source of rodenticides for use in the Malibu area has been eliminated is a cause for celebration by humans and all the furred and feathered critters that call Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains home. Not only is the fact that these poisons have been removed from another store’s shelves a victory in its own right, but the way it was accomplished sets an example for how to bring disparate public and private interests together for a common good.
Kudos go to the people and groups who, along with the local media, worked on the issue in a steadfast and diligent manner. The parties communicated intelligently and civilly. There were no personal attacks or threats. The participants on all sides of the issue treated each other with respect, avoiding the demonization favored by those who seem incapable of understanding that name-calling and vindictiveness perpetuates conflict.
The calmness that prevailed allows somber assessment of the adverse effect that the use of anticoagulant rodenticides has on wildlife and domestic pets. These poisons can be eaten for days by rats and mice, causing the toxins to accumulate to lethal levels for creatures quadruple or more the ingestor’s size. Predators or scavengers, such as owls and coyotes, consume the dead or dying rodents, then the toxic consumption continues step by step up the food chain until lethal doses are found in mountain lions.
Making headway with the residential purchaser is an incentive to take the issue to next level and reach out to commercial enterprises that employ these chemicals as part of routine service packages. Every Malibuite should insist on knowing what products are being used on their property, and if anticoagulants are on the list, they should indicate they want alternative approaches.
Government and large corporations are heavy rodenticide users at schools, parks, shopping centers, hospitals and other locations. It has been documented that they are used at Malibu public schools. Has anyone asked if they are used at Malibu City Hall?
A coalition of groups called on the California Department of Pesticide Regulation this week in Sacramento to end the use of these second-generation anticoagulants that have been linked to the poisoning of wildlife, pets and even children. The groups stress the need to restrict these dangerous products because harm to wildlife is widespread throughout the state. Researchers at the University of California found anticoagulants in 70 percent of mammals and 68 percent of the birds that they studied. State Fish and Game Department research data is similar.
Rodentproofing of homes and other buildings by sealing openings and eliminating food sources; providing owl boxes to encourage natural predation; and utilizing traps that don’t involve toxic chemicals, is highly successful and eliminates the need to jeopardize so many vulnerable species.
There now is a petition before the federal Environmental Protection Agency asking that agency to work for a curb on anticoagulants. The EPA has been investigating rodenticides for over a decade, but the agency’s primary focus has been that the product packaging is unsafe and thus there should be increased control.
However, wildlife and other environmental resource protection groups want to see the EPA speak out on more than better packaging. These groups want to see the use of second-generation anticoagulants prohibited. Critics maintain that these toxins should be viewed the same way that chemical weapons of human mass destruction are regarded.
 Much of the sales promotion for home pest control services appears to rely on attempts at catchy jingles and humor. But who’s going to think it’s funny when they find out that what “eradicate” means is the wiping out of California’s wildlife?

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