Regretfully, our recent barred owl rescue did not have the turn out that we would have hoped for. She was rescued on December 10th, brought to the World Bird Sanctuary on December 11th, and she passed away on December 12th from the probable ingestion of a poisoned rodent. Sadly, this is the time of year when our resident raptor population dips due to one simple cause – poison. As the temperatures drop, mice and rats, chipmunks and squirrels, start trying to get into people’s homes, sheds, garages, under porches, or anywhere else to keep warm and settle in for winter. Often, humans are none too pleased to see their new stowaway and they run off to the store to buy rat poison. These products are sold by the masses, at our local grocery stores, Wal-Mart, feed stores, and sometimes even PET stores! Usually the packaging of these products boasts “Kills mice and rats in one feeding” and “Fast Acting Humane Active Ingredients”. That depends on your definition of humane we suppose. Most commercially available rat poisons contain a drug that is called a anti-coagulant, meaning that it causes the rodent’s blood to lose its ability to form clots, while also degrading the structures of blood vessels and arteries. This in turn causes massive internal bleeding, over the course of hours and sometimes days, until the hemorrhaging finally results in death. These same symptoms in humans cause immense pain and agony as the blood invades muscle and joint tissue, eventually putting the person in circulatory shock where they lie calmly and die, appearing painless but proven not to be.
So you’re thinking to yourself, ‘It’s a rat, or a mouse. I don’t really care if it dies painfully. I want it out of my house!”. We understand, really we do. The hotline staff are not all people who live vegan lifestyles, with rodents and bugs
running around our homes because we can’t stand to use a fly swatter. We’re practical people, and we know that there are some boundaries that animal need not cross. Everyone has their own ideas of how far is too far. Our complaint is that the poisoning of wildlife is an EXTREMELY damaging way to handle this conflict. If a homeowner puts out poison bait for a mouse or rat they are risking the illness and possible death of domestic animals like the family dog or cat, as well as risking the lives of many other wildlife species that were not your original target. Dogs and cats come in to emergency rooms every single day after ingestion of rat poison. These poisons are tasteless, odorless, and just as attractive to your cat or dog as they are to rodents. Plus, unless you CATCH your pet eating the poison, you may never know that it happened. By the time you become aware of the issue, it will cost thousands of dollars in blood transfusions and life saving measures to even possibly save your pet’s life, and often regardless of the financial matter, they cannot be saved. Maybe you don’t have pets so you’re not worried about that at all. There is still the issue of the food chain that we have to take into account. Rat/mouse eats poison > Barred Owl swoops down to eat mouse > Barred Owl dies in subdivision > Raccoons find owl carcass and eat parts of it > Raccoons die in your yard > Neighborhood cat or dog finds raccoon’s carcass and eats part of it > Cat or dog dies from poison. The cycle continues until the poison is dilute enough in the animal’s bloodstream to not cause them any ill effects. Everything in the wild is eaten by something. That’s the way of the wild. You cannot poison one living thing and think that it will end there. Rat poisons are designed to have a delayed effect, so that the rodent will not die right in front of the bait station. That effect causes the animal to die who-knows-where and then it is out of your hands.
Humane mouse traps are available, cost-effective because you can use them multiple times, and they work! Just making sure that you don’t have any open entry points for rodents to get into your home goes a long way too. Eliminating the option for rodents to get into your home is the best way to handle problems like these. Prevention is key, especially because what may start as a small opening that allows a rodent to get into your home, may soon become wide enough for a squirrel, opossum or skunk! Then you really have trouble. There are plenty of home-made solutions that can work to deter rodents as well. Peppermint oil on cotton balls, moth balls, ammonia soaked cotton balls, cayenne pepper, normal black pepper, or better yet – adopt a
cat! Humane societies and animal rescue groups have special cat adoption rates all the time and there is always an abundance of cats that desperately need homes. Cats can be a great solution when it comes to rodents, plus you’ll have saved a life and made a wonderful friend. So the next time that you see a mouse run across the kitchen floor, think twice before using anything toxic. It might just save a beautiful owl’s life.