Deanne Pfeifer, a member of the Owl Watch BC and a director of Friends of Kings Community Nature Space in Saanich, welcomes North Saanich’s plan to ban the use of anticoagulant rodenticides. (Rob Vanzella photo)

Environmental advocate applauds North Saanich plan to ban rat poison

Advocate says decision to stop anticoagulant rodenticide use sends important signal

An environmental advocate cheers North Saanich’s decision to ban the use of anticoagulant rodenticides.

Deanna Pfeifer, a member of Owl Watch BC and a director of Friends of Kings Community Nature Space in Saanich, said the decision helps the local environment, especially birds of prey like hawks and owls.

“We have got a problem with wildlife dying at an enormous rate through the anticoagulant rodenticides,” she said.

The issue has been gaining attention after Saanich residents living near Kings Park found two owls that died due to rodenticide poisoning.

“The second owl had three different types of rodenticides in it. It was very disturbing,” she said.

RELATED: Necropsy results show Kings Park owl likely died from rat poison

Saanich banned municipal use of rodenticide in July.

The provincial ministry of agriculture found in March 2018 that the number of owls dying from poisoning more than doubled in a six-month period. Pfeifer expanded on these points during her presentation before North Saanich council. “I am deeply concerned about the health and well-being of our communities and our ecosystem,” she said. “Owl deaths and secondary poisonings are increasing at an alarming rate.”

North Saanich currently does not use anticoagulant rodenticides, so Monday’s decision formalizes an existing practice on municipal properties.

Municipalities do not have the power to ban the use of anticoagulant rodenticides beyond their own properties, but Pfeifer still thinks North Saanich’s decision sets an example. It signals that the municipality is following the lead of other municipalities and are part of a growing group of communities supporting a province-wide ban.

RELATED: Saanich bans municipal rodenticide use after owl deaths

North Saanich’s decision also alerts the public to safer alternatives, while generating awareness about the issue, she added. For example, the other day Pfeifer received an email from a Central Saanich resident, who encountered a writhing and squirming rat while on a walk. “Their dog picked up and they did not even clue that the rat was poisoned,” she said. “That is how they behave when they are poisoned.”

In this sense, anticoagulant rodenticides also threaten family pets and their owners may not even be aware. “Often they are violent sick, you spend thousands of dollars and when they die, do you really want to spend $2,000 more for a necropsy to confirm that is poison?”

Pfeifer said the use of anticoagulant rodenticides appears widespread, pointing to the Kings Park area as an example. “Around the perimeter of that green space there were over 100 bait boxes. It’s everywhere you look. It’s ridiculous.”

Pfeifer promotes safe alternatives such as traps that do not rely on poison as well as other preventive measures, including landscaping techniques. Banning the use of anticoagulant rodenticides would also benefit one of the most effective anti-rodent agents — birds of prey like owls and hawks.

The death of two owls in Kings Park has given 2,000 rats a reprieve, she said.

“We used to families of hawks in here and one owl eats a thousand rats a year.”

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