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Rats multiply by the millions, transmit horrible diseases and are just about the last thing you'd want to see in your kitchen, attic, garage or office. But the war on rats has caused some alarming collateral damage: the poisoning of wildlife.

Numerous chemical pesticides are used to kill rats, the most toxic and fastest-acting being second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides. One helping of the poison is enough to kill it, but the toxin lives on for months. So there lies the rat, dead, or dying and lethargic, easy prey for numerous predators and scavengers. The animal that ingests the rat then dies from the poison that's still in its system. And when that animal dies, the poison it ingested can kill the next animal that eats it.

This devastating cycle of pass-along poisoning has injured or killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of pets and wild animals throughout California. That tally of poisoned wildlife includes eagles, great-horned owls, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions and the federally endangered San Joaquin kit fox. To reduce the number of wildlife deaths, the state's Department of Pesticide Regulation banned the sale and use of the second-generation pesticides among consumers in 2014, restricting them to licensed commercial exterminators.

But the 2014 consumer ban hasn't stopped the wild animals we treasure from dying of the poisons targeted at pests we despise. Last year, the Department of Pesticide Regulation released an analysis of 11 wildlife studies showing evidence of the poison in 88 percent of the bobcats tested and more than 90 percent of tested mountain lions.

The state Assembly just passed a bill that aims to stop these pass-along poisonings. Assembly Bill 1788, the California Ecosystems Protection Act, would ban the use of these dangerous second-generation anticoagulants except in agricultural settings (such as food storage warehouses, slaughterhouses, canneries and wineries).

The bill is opposed by trade groups for pest control companies and other business groups, which want the Legislature to hold off until the Department of Pesticide Regulation finishes its planned re-evaluation of second-generation rodenticides. But getting these poisons away from wildlife can't wait some unspecified amount of time for an agency evaluation. This bill should be passed now and then signed into law.

Editorial on 05/15/2019

Print Headline: Poison kills more than rats


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