Monday, July 13, 2009

Hoots, Howls, and Hollers 07/13/2009

Beware. I am on a soap box today about a serious issue.

First, let me tell you why I climbed up on the soapbox. A Liberty Wildlife Rescue volunteer was recently dispatched to pick up a hawk found on the ground in the north part of the Valley. Upon arrival he did indeed find a fledgling Harris’ hawk as well as the already deceased sibling. Evidently there was only one remaining adult at the nest site also. Hmmmmmmmmm. That didn’t seem right to him as Harris’s are often known to have a number of adults in the “family” who help care for the young. Something was amiss. On closer scrutiny, the volunteer found a number of baited rat traps, filled with a deadly form of rodenticide. The homeowner had been assured that this wouldn’t be a problem for other animals. Folks, don’t believe those words. I won’t go into a lot of detail—you, too, can go on line and read about the “collateral damage” from the use of these techniques to control pests.

I am enough of a realist to know that sometimes rodents get out of balance and need to be controlled. Last year I lost all of the electricity to the front of my house because the rodents moved in and made fast work of my wiring…not good. It would be nice to think there was something natural to use at all times. The friendly gopher snake in the yard can only do so much. A stealthy great horned owl or barn owl (I should be so lucky) would be a great addition. But, the truth is, they aren’t always there, and they can’t always keep up with the production of prolific mice or rats.

I tried live traps with some success, but then what are you going to do with your prize? Taking it out to release in the desert might be as cruel as rodenticide. If it doesn’t know where the food, water, and cover is, it could be doomed to a slow death of starvation, dehydration, or in the best scenario to fall prey to a predator who does know the territory—seems like a lot of trouble for the same result.

Someone will try to sell you on the sticky traps. That can have horrible results. People have brought sticky traps in to us with birds stuck to them, with lizards that have pulled their feet off trying to escape or with rodents stuck and desperately trying to get away. How cruel! This is just not an option.

The rodenticide baited traps using warfarin and even superwarfarin, are worse. Warfarin, an anticoagulant suppressing Vitamin K, causes the rodent to bleed to death internally, and it is a slow and painful death that can take days. The rodent can travel a long way while in the throes of dying. Further, it can cause serious issues in other mammals like wildlife, your dogs and cats, your children! It can cause renal failure, cardiac issues, hypertension, central nervous system disorders, depression, and GI upset. Enough said.

If you have to control the rodents in your area, get a snap trap. They have indeed “built a better mousetrap”. The new ones are plastic, easy to clean, easy to set, easy to empty, and they are quick to do their job. They can be placed where you normally find signs of the unwelcomed rodents. The snap of the trap acts as quickly and surely as the jaws of the snake, the talons of the raptor. And, the target doesn’t go anywhere after the snap.

If those traps that our volunteer found had been snap traps, the Harris hawk family would still be intact and the remaining baby wouldn’t be with a foster parent at Liberty Wildlife right now. The hawk was doing what it is designed to do…..pick off the old, ill prey animal. The only problem was that warfarin was the cause of the problem, and it took its non target species as well as the target…..collateral damage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read your blog every month or so, and love hearing about all the good you do. I am sending the link to this particular "soapbox" post out to many of my friends, family and even co-workers. I know of a few of them who use the poison bait, and I am constantly checking the sticky traps here at work for lizards and such. Luckily they stopped using poisons here at work some years ago, and our resident RTH families, and Barred Owls are safe from being collateral damage. Keep up the amazing work!

Cheri Cook
Roseville CA