Renewed calls to ban rodenticides after owl death outside B.C. government building

Rodenticide use has long been controversial in B.C. While rodenticides are effective at killing rodents, they also kill some of the predators that eat those poisoned rodents.

Deanna Pfeifer is a member of the group Rodenticide Free B.C. On Nov. 16, she was called to the Ministry of Environment building on Jutland Road in Victoria because a woman had found a dead, great horned owl under a tree there.

“I asked her if she noticed any black bait boxes of poison around where the owl was found and she said yes,” said Pfeifer.

That day, after retrieving the dead owl, she took a video of herself walking around the building. In it, she finds two black boxes used for rodent control.

In the video, she points out a label on the box and reads it out loud.

“Active ingredient Bromadiolone,” Pfeifer says in the video. “That’s a second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide that is banned for use around buildings like this, the minister's own doorstep.”

In July, the provincial government banned the use of rodenticide for 18 months as it conducts a scientific review of its uses.

In the meantime, rodenticides or second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) can still be used by licensed pest control companies around restaurants and buildings that are deemed an essential service.

“We still have owls dying,” said Pfeifer.

After this latest death, Rodenticide Free B.C. Is now calling on Minister of Environment George Hayman to ban the use of the poison all together.

In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Environment says:

“The ministry is in the process of reviewing the current science surrounding SGARs use in B.C. and their potential impact on wildlife. It is anticipated these actions will result in recommendations to improve how these products are regulated.”

“There’s a list that we have provided him and all he needs to do is add it to the current regulation of prohibited products,” said Pfeifer. “Simple, easy, done.”

Rob Hope is the general manager of OWL Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society in Ladner BC.

“This year we have 60 suspected rodenticide poisons,” said Hope.

Getting an accurate number of owl deaths caused by rodenticide poisonings has been an issue for advocates.

When an owl dies of a suspected poisoning, it gets sent to a government facility for a necropsy.

“The ones that we suspect are rodenticides are sent off for testing and unfortunately we don’t get all the numbers back for the birds that we send off,” said Hope.

Out of those 60 suspected rodenticide deaths this year, the society has only gotten back three results. Two were confirmed poisonings, the other was not.

“One owl will eat 1,000 rodents a year,” said Pfeifer.

She says nature already has a way of controlling the rodent population, and that is through natural predators like owls. She says an all-out ban is long overdue.  

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