'It just has to stop': Okanagan raptor rescue happy to see permanent restrictions on rat poison that travels up the food chain

Ban on food chain poison

Regulatory changes to the sale and use of rodenticides that travel up the food chain and harm wild animals will be permanent in British Columbia — welcome news to rescue organizations that see the ill effects of the poison on an almost daily basis.

The Ministry of Environment announced Friday that widespread use and sale of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) will be permanently banned.

These types of poisons, commonly used in bait traps, are ingested by small rodents and other pests but do not kill them immediately. Deaths occur between four days and two weeks later, causing the impacted animal to become increasingly slow and injured — easy pickings for predators.

But a predator that eats an animal with SGARs in its system is also at risk of lethal poisoning. Owls, hawks, crows, raccoons, coyotes, weasels, snakes and even house cats are at risk.

Birds of prey are particularly susceptible, given their dependence on rodents as a food source.

In July 2021, the provincial government established an 18-month ban on the sale and use of SGARs except for at essential services like hospitals and food production enterprises, as long as the SGARs were implemented by a licensed pest control company.

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.

"The regulation will prohibit the sale and use of SGARs in B.C. for all members of the public, and most commercial and industrial operations," reads a news release from the ministry Friday.

Essential service businesses will need to hold a certificate and licence to use them, have a site-specific integrated pest-management plan and record the poison's usage.

"The changes will reduce unnecessary pesticide use by requiring individuals and businesses to focus on other methods of pest control, such as traps, less toxic rodenticide alternatives and removing food sources."

The news is welcome to Dale Belvedere, manager of SORCO, the Okanagan's only raptor rehabilitation centre.

She has been watching birds of prey tragically perish from the effects of secondary poisoning for years.

"We've been wanting [this ban] for years ... Just this week, I've had two, and you know, we just get to them too late and there's nothing we can do for them," Belvedere said.

"It just has to stop."

The new permanent regulation will come into effect in January, 2023, to coincide with the end of the 18-month temporary ban.

Find a full breakdown of the new regulations here.

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

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