Okanagan raptor rescue continues to see raptors getting sick despite ban on rat poison

Raptors still being poisoned

Even with regulatory changes and bans on the sale and use of rat poison officially implemented in British Columbia, the Okanagan's only raptor rehabilitation centre continues to see birds passing away from the effects of secondary poisoning.

In October, the Ministry of Environment announced new requirements for the sale and use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGAR), which officially came into effect last Saturday.

The use of poison has been shown to travel up the food chain and harm wild animals. Commonly used in bait traps, the poison is ingested by small rodents and other pests but does not kill them immediately.

When they pass between a few days or a couple of weeks later, possibly out in the open for consumption, the poison remains in their system.

If a predator eats an animal with SGARs in its system, it is also at risk of lethal poisoning. Birds of prey are particularly susceptible, given their dependence on rodents as a food source.

In July 2021, the Province introduced an 18-month ban on the sale and use of SGARs while the government reviewed the science and developed recommendations for policy.

After consultation in 2022 with First Nations, local governments, the public, pest control operators, agricultural operators and more stakeholders, the ministry decided to make the ban permanent.

Dale Belvedere, manager of the SORCO raptor rehabilitation centre, said they've had a lot more cases this year come in of secondary poisoning.

"Even though after all the wheeling and dealing we got the verdict we wanted, it's not going to stop there. If people have it, they're gonna continue to use it. We try to get the word out," she said.

Particularly in the last few weeks, the volunteers have attended to calls for cases of birds being poisoned in Kelowna.

"Most of the ones we got are red-tailed hawks because they were born extremely late this year because of the cold, wet spring we had. They didn't breed when they should have," Belvedere added.

Normally the Okanagan will see red-tail hawks young in August and September. This year the babies have been showing in up November and December and are now staying around the areas to feed.

Belvedere said the continuous loss of the birds of prey the rescue tries to save from the poisoning has started to weigh down volunteers.

"It's very upsetting to all of us. Our couriers who pick up these birds, to the volunteers who care for them, and they don't make it and we know it can be resolved."

The impacts are seen in other animals too, with owls, hawks, crows, raccoons, coyotes, weasels, snakes and even house cats and dogs at risk.

"It's been judged on, it was ruled on, it's illegal to use it. Even if you have it, please don't use it," Belvedere said.

"You're not only killing the rodents, you're also killing other wildlife."

Belvedere is pleading with anyone who may still have the rodenticides to dispose of that product in the proper channels, not through garbage or compost, to look out for the animals.

Find a full breakdown of the new regulations here.

Learn more about raptor rescue in the Okanagan and how you can help here.

More Penticton News