Interim rodenticide ban announced

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Wildlife advocates who have been campaigning against anti-coagulant rodenticides received a win last week when the British Columbia government introduced an immediate 18-month ban on their widespread sale and usage, but professionals who deal with rodent infestations are already worried about what may result if one of their pest management tools is removed.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy announced the ban on second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides on July 21, noting it had heard from many citizens about the harmful effects on other wildlife not intended as targets, with recent owl deaths a particular concern. With some exemptions to allow rodenticide use at health services, food processing and storage facilities, restaurants and grocery stores and agricultural operations, the ban period is intended to provide time for a scientific review and recommendations for other options.

“We share the concerns of many British Columbians that rodenticide use is harming, and too often killing, birds, pets and other wildlife,” Environment Minister George Heyman stated in a news release. “That is why we are taking action to reduce risks, conduct a review and step up our efforts to reduce unnecessary pesticide use, rather than safer alternatives.”

The interim measure is supported by many of those in the region who have been calling for a complete ban, including Saanich resident Deanna Pfeifer. As an organizer of the Rodenticide Free B.C. campaign, Pfeifer made a delegation to Islands Trust Council in March asking for the local government’s support of a provincial ban.

The Trust then passed a resolution that echoed those made by multiple communities around the province and which were supported by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“Thousands of British Columbians have voiced their concerns over the use of rodenticides and the harmful impacts they have on owls and other animals,” Pfeifer said after the announcement. “I am pleased to know the minister is acknowledging the detrimental effects rodenticides can have on our ecosystem and look forward to an increased awareness of alternative pest management approaches that are safer, more humane and more effective in the long term.”

Taking a potentially dangerous chemical out of general public reach may be warranted, but those who are trained for responsible rodenticide use have some concerns.

Dave French of Salt Spring-based company Pest Control Services said Heyman’s order came as a surprise, with no advance notice given to industry that it might be coming.

“We are currently looking at how we can best move forward and continue to help people with their rodent problems. We are also in contact with the ministry for clarification as to what exactly will be exempt,” French said. “We fully understand and appreciate people’s concerns regarding rodenticide use, however, we maintain that it is a necessary component of integrated pest management. We will, of course, comply with the ruling.”

Pest control operators have noticed rodent populations have grown dramatically through the years, even with the concerted efforts of their companies and homeowners. Infestations can cause significant damage and health impacts, including harms to bird populations, major damage to homes and businesses through floods and fire, and the carrying of diseases.
French said his company expects to find that eliminating the use of rodenticides will cause a big upswing in infestations in local homes in the months to come, since the Gulf Islands region is perfectly suited to rodent needs.

“They have an abundance of easily available food and shelter. They have few predators. And, our behaviour, our composting and garbage disposal practices, our feeding of birds, our home and land maintenance practices, all make for a very rodent-friendly environment,” French explained.

PCS encourages homeowners and tenants to be vigilant, to increase their removal of garbage and recycling, to work on cleaning up homes and yards and, where possible, to work on sealing up homes to eliminate or at least minimize rodent incursions.

French said one of the most effective things people can do to prevent infestations is get rid of bird feeders, even those that promise to be “rodent proof,” because rats love birdseed and will go to incredible lengths to get it.
“I know everyone loves to feed the birds and watch them, but it’s a major attraction for rats and mice,” he said.

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