Pest control industry voices opposition to rodenticide bill

Officials found this mountain lion dead in the Santa Monica Mountains in December of 2004. They later discovered the mountain lion died of anticoagulant poisoning, similar to the mountain lion found last year by the  Malibu Agricultural Society. 

Following the revelation that wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains is being killed by anticoagulants found in over-the-counter rodenticides, a bill was introduced that would give counties the ability to ban rodenticide sales.

By Kevin Connelly/Special to The Malibu Times

Opposition to a bill introduced by Assemblymember Fran Pavley that would authorize the board of supervisors in individual counties to prohibit the sale of poisons containing anticoagulants has been voiced by the pest control industry.

This comes after the scientists from the National Park Service have found that local carnivores in the Santa Monica Mountains are being killed by exposure to anticoagulants, which they say are found in many over-the-counter rodenticides that target rats, mice, ground squirrels and various other rodents. Pavley introduced the bill in February based on these findings.

Harvey Logan, vice president of Pest Control Operators of California, said he and the PCO are opposed to the bill. “We are opposed unless it is amended,” he said in a telephone interview. “I can’t imagine places like San Francisco without these rodenticides when it is already crawling with rats. Diseases borne by rats can be incredible; they can lead to a devastating loss of human life with diseases like the bubonic plague.”

Logan said the PCO has talked to Pavley’s office and is willing to work with the assembly member to get the bill amended.

On behalf of Pavley, spokesperson Nate Solov defended the bill. “[Many groups] are interested in this bill,” he said in a telephone interview. “The state is spending large amounts of money on endangered species. Environmental and animal rights groups are interested in the bill because wildlife is dying from anticoagulant poisoning. Chemical companies are against it because it directly affects their profit margin.”

Glenn Brank, spokesperson for California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, said the DPR is aware of the legislation, but has not yet taken a position, although he did say the bill was in conflict with state law. Brank said individual counties couldn’t pass ordinances regulating private-property pest control.

He was also skeptical about the enforceability of the bill, pointing out that individuals could leave a county banning anticoagulant sales to acquire the rodenticides. On the federal level, Brank said the DPR has been awaiting a response from the United States Environmental Protection Agency regarding anticoagulants since 2001.

“Our interests are the same [as Pavley’s],” Brank said. “We want to protect people and the environment. The solution should be enforceable and reasonable. We have to find a way to both protect wildlife and control rodents which can spread disease.”

Brank did not know when the DPR would take a position on the bill. The NPS began a study on the effect of urbanization on carnivores in 1996. This study indicated that, from 1997-2000, at least one bobcat and nine coyotes died as a result of chemical poisoning. The scientists at a March 22 conference in Thousand Oaks said they had not yet completed their study, but insisted this pattern has increased dramatically since 2000. In December of 2004, scienists said two of the eight mountain lions living in the Santa Monica Mountains were found dead. Examinations conducted by the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory found the mountain lions died directly of anticoagulant poisoning. Of the remaining six in the area, four are the kittens of these poisoned mountain lions.

Dr. Raymond Sauvajot, chief of planning for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, listed the four anticoagulants that have been found in the infected carnivores: brodifacoum, bromadialone, diphacinone and difethialone. He said these anticoagulants are commonly found in over-the-counter rodenticides.

“This is the furthest thing we imagined we’d discover,” Sauvajot said. “It’s something we just stumbled across in our studies. I don’t suspect that people are intentionally poisoning the wildlife. Anticoagulants are out there and they are widely used. People using [rodenticides] do not see their other ecological effects.”

In layman’s terms, anticoagulants reduce the blood-clotting functions of warm-blooded animals and, in turn, can cause an animal to bleed to death internally.

Wildlife ecologist Seth Riley said because their study was confined to carnivores in the Santa Monica Mountains, the problem could be much more widespread in terms of other wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains as well as wildlife in separate locales.

“We really got lucky to find this,” Riley said. “It would be interesting to see if animals lower on the food chain are being affected. It could be happening with hawks and other wildlife as well. If these animals are lost, they may be hard to get back.”

Still, scientists have not directly linked rodenticides to the death of wildlife. “We know anticoagulants are contributing to the death of wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains,” said Charles Taylor, chief of external affairs for the SMMNRA. “We suspect that anticoagulants are getting into [the ecosystem] through rodenticides because mice and rodents are becoming infected and secondarily infecting [other animals], but we cannot prove that yet as we have not done a study for it.”