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Poison Risks & Consequences

Consider This:
  • You purchase poison and put the bait out for rodents in your home or yard.
  • Rat/mouse eats poison.
  • Barred Owl swoops down to eat mouse.
  • Barred Owl dies in neighborhood, close to your home but not in your yard for you to see.
  • Raccoons find owl carcass and eat parts of it.
  • Raccoons wander around neighborhood for hours, eventually they die in someone’s yard, shed, garage, or home.
  • Neighborhood ‘outdoor’ cat, or cat that just ‘likes to go outdoors sometimes’, or a lost/stray dog finds raccoon’s carcass and eats part of it.
  • Cat or dog dies from poison.

If the cat or dog was owned by someone, they now have to search the neighborhood, eventually finding their pet dead, stiff as a board, with blood seeping out of their eyes, nose, mouth, and anus.  It’s an awful sight for a person to see, much less the person who loved this animal.

We do not recommend poisoning because:

  1. If the source or attraction is not removed, there will always be more mice and rats to take the place of the ones that die.
  2. Rodents do not die immediately and can end up dying outdoors where other animals are exposed to the poison, or they can die inside household walls, attics, basements where they pose health risk to pets and people.  (Not to mention the awful stench and stain!)

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.

Our Recent Experience

The Bi-State Wildlife Hotline was involved in a Barred Owl rescue on December 10th, 2011 in Ferguson, MO.  The owl was 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 an 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.

Barred Owl Eating a Mouse

Don’t believe us?  Think that we’re exaggerating?  Check out this article from Scientific American – Rat Poison Kills Owls.

Risks & Consequences for Dogs & Cats

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, or ingestion of a rat or mouse that was killed with poison.  These poisons are tasteless, odorless, and just as attractive to your cat or dog as they are to rodents.

From Veterinary Partner, a division of the Veterinary Information Network, Inc. – “Veterinarians are commonly asked about the risk to a cat or dog who eats a rodent that has been poisoned with an anticoagulant rodenticide. The rodent might have already died or simply not have died yet, given that several days are required to feel the effect of these poisons. The fact is that when you are talking about the newer generation anticoagulant rat poisons, such as diphacinone, the risk is very real. A greedy rat can eat enough poison to kill 20 rats before he starts to feel sick and if a dog or cat eats the rat, the poison is transferred. The usual patient for secondary poisoning is a pet or predator that depends heavily on rats for food (a barn cat, for example). If a long-acting anticoagulant rodenticide is used and the pet eats multiple rodents, a problem could certainly occur..”

If you are concerned about a cat or dog that possibly ingested rat poison, or a poisoned rat or mouse, here’s a video that will help you look for the signs and symptoms in your pet.  However, if you think the animal has been exposed, seek immediate veterinary assistance. Do NOT wait until morning, or until Monday when the vet is open!  Go to an ER now!  The faster you get your pet to a hospital the more likely that they can save him/her, and the lesser the cost will be to do so!

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’re practical people, and we know that there are some boundaries that animal need not cross.  Our complaint is that the poisoning of wildlife is an EXTREMELY damaging way to handle this conflict.  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.

Alternatives to Poison

Humane ‘live’ mouse traps are available, cost-effective because you can use them multiple times, and they work!  Plastic live traps are as cheap as $10 – Available at Tomahawk and Victor Pest – and work for both mice and rats.

Very Fat Winter Mouse

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.  As with any animal coming into your home or yard, make sure you don’t have anything lying around that is attractive to the rodents, like bird feeders that drop a lot of seed on the ground, or trash cans that are not secured.

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!

The Best Mouse Trap!

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 life long friend.  Even if you can’t have a cat in the house, but want one for the shed, barn, or your property they can be extremely helpful.  The Missouri Barn Cat Program works with cats that are not meant to be pets, but work very well as ‘barn cats’ or outdoor cats.  They make sure that these cats are spayed, neutered, vaccinated, and otherwise healthy so that the adopters can take them home to their own land and mouse-duty.  So the next time that you see a mouse run across the kitchen floor, think twice before using anything toxic.  There are so many better ways.