Demand a stop to cruel poisons that are harming animals throughout our environment

A commonly used rat bait trap with poison inside

Poison kills a lot more than rats

Many have seen the photographs taken below the Hollywood sign of the radio-monitored mountain lion P22. Taut muscles rippling below her sleek fur and steady eyes focused ahead, she was the picture of feline health.


Many later saw photographs of the same large cat which told a far different, troubling story. In these, P22’s once glossy coat is marred by mange and her gaze is sickly. What happened? Most likely P22 ate an animal who had itself ingested a rat poison, a rodenticide. These poisons are increasingly being used in alarming amounts throughout the environment, harming not just “pests” but also protected wild life and pets, as well as becoming a health hazard in our own communities .


You see them everywhere; in restaurants, alleyways, around our public schools - wherever humans congregate - the ubiquitous rat trap. Baited with rodenticides, these traps don’t just kill rodents, they are designed to kill them slowly from the inside out. There are many versions of rodenticide products, but they are all essentially anticoagulants. The poison is especially effective in killing rats and mice because rodents are physically unable to vomit.

The poison takes days to kill the animal, making it highly susceptible to predation as the rodent becomes more disoriented and lethargic. When it is eventually killed and ingested by another wild animal (or even a pet), the poison travels up the food chain. Predators such as P22 as well as scavenging birds, owls, hawks, raccoons, bobcats,  foxes, skunks and coyotes have been found sickened by the poison, slowly bleeding internally and becoming susceptible to other predators. The rodent population then increases as the control predators are taken out and the cycle continues.

Poison in the system
Recently, over 350 incidents of wildlife poisonings have been documented by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. This number is a low indication because it only represents the animals that have been discovered and recorded.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began reporting cases of child, pet and wildlife poisonings from anticoagulants in the early 1980s. More than twenty years later in 2015, the EPA and state regulators banned the manufacturer of the most toxic ingredients for consumer use and mandated retail poisons be packaged in compliance within safety requirements.

The most toxic poisons, however, are still issued to licensed pest-control companies, who disseminate the majority of traps. These toxins, know as second-generation rodenticides are the poisons that are increasingly being reported harming wild life throughout California.


Steve Winter’s famous photo of P22 appeared in the December 2013 issue of National Geographic (photo Steve Winter).

It’s a win for pest control agencies
Instead of looking at why the pests exist, the pest-control companies, when called, immediately put out poisoned traps. One commercial pest-control business can spread these deadly poisons throughout whole communities. These businesses have an incentive to keep the rodent population active in these neighborhoods. Rats are attracted to the poison as they are commonly given a fish or chicken flavor, attracting more rodents to the location, virtually guaranteeing a rodent problem. Also, with the rats’ natural predators being reduced through second-hand poisoning, they begin to multiply unchecked. The pest-control company is the sole beneficiary of this method of dealing with pest overpopulation.


Sensible alternatives
Common sense solutions exist in lieu of using pest control companies. Looking at the causes - available food sources and shelter - is the most humane and effective solution. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Get a cat or dog. Sometimes merely the presence of these animals will persuade rats and mice to reside elsewhere

  • Use Havahart traps and relocate

  • Use natural repellents such as peppermint oil or safe products such as Rataway (found at or

  • Remove any ivy or other outdoor plants which may act as shelters for rodents

  • Remove any sources of food, water or pet food

  • Permanently stop rats from entering your residence by sealing all entry points

  • Move compost piles away from structures

  • If you are convinced that using a pest removal company is the way to go, choose one that uses Integrated Pest Management practices (IPM).

Promoting natural predators such as snakes, hawks and owls can help to control rodent populations. One barn owl can eat up to 3,000 mice a year. Put up a barn owl nest box. Feral neutered/spayed cats are also a wonderful way to control the population while giving an adoptable cat a home.


Glue traps - no way

Glue traps are some of the cruelest ways to eradicate rodents. Not only do they pose a risk to other small animals including snakes, birds and baby animals, they cause undue pain and suffering to the rodent. (If you have found an animal caught in a glue trap, use vegetable oil to slowly free them.)


Humans are encroaching further and further into and restricting the habitats of wild animals. As we move into these spaces we take many other animals with us; some - like our companion animals - are our family members, others - the so-called pest animals - have adapted to living off of our food waste. Accordingly, as their environments are destroyed, wild animals see the ones we bring with us as often the only readily available food sources. Rather than fighting battles which no one wins, not the rodents, not the wild animals, not the environment, not the humans (except the pest control companies), it would not only be more humane but certainly more safe and effective to seek solutions that rely on prevention rather than costly destruction.