Submitted by the Haida Gwaii branch of the BC SPCA
A Queen Charlotte couple recently had to make the heartbreaking decision to euthanize their dog after finding out he was suffering the effects of ingesting high amounts of rat poison.
Rats are very intelligent and adaptable rodents, and these traits have allowed them to expand to most parts of Haida Gwaii. Rats have learned that living around humans yields regular meals in the form of discarded food scraps, poorly stored or waste livestock food, compost heaps, and gardens.
One technique that people use to control rats in their neighbourhoods is by setting out rat bait that contains poison, usually an anticoagulant such as bromadiolone (less toxic warfarin is no longer commonly used because many rat populations became resistant to it). Anticoagulants block the action of Vitamin K1, which is needed for normal blood clotting.
Legally, the bait must be secured in a bait station. Rats can enter the station and eat the highly palatable bait, but they cannot remove it from the station. Once the concentration of poison reaches a lethal dosage (which may be done in a single feeding), the rats become very ill. In many cases, the rats return to their nests and eventually die of massive internal bleeding.
If the bait is not properly stored in a bait station, or if a poisoned rat is killed or scavenged by another animal, the toxins in the rat remain active and can poison anything that eats it.
There are several ways to secure garbage in wildlife-proof containers to prevent rats from accessing this food source:
- Make sure your compost containers are rat-proof.
- Build livestock or wild-bird feeding stations so they minimize waste, which can attract rats.
- Build livestock housing so it discourages rats from nesting in or under the structures.
- Use humane kill traps, placed where only rodents can access them.
If you must resort to using rat poison, make sure you use a bait station that prevents larger animals and children from getting access. Also, make sure you store extra bait in an animal and child-proof container. Tell your neighbours that you have set out rat poison so that they can restrict access for their pets and children.
The carcasses of poisoned rats should be discarded in a wildlife-proof container so they don’t go on to kill our wildlife neighbours, such as eagles, ravens, crows, and bears.
In taking these steps we can all make our communities safer for children, pets, and wildlife.