Park district will stop using anticoagulants



DEATH TRAP—A bait box containing rat poison. The City of Simi Valley has discouraged residents and business from using anticoagulant rodenticides because they can harm wildlife other than rats. The Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District has voted to stop using the product at its public parks. Acorn file photo

DEATH TRAP—A bait box containing rat poison. The City of Simi Valley has discouraged residents and business from using anticoagulant rodenticides because they can harm wildlife other than rats. The Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District has voted to stop using the product at its public parks. Acorn file photo

The use of anticoagulant rodenticides, or rat poison, has been a hot-button issue in Simi Valley for years. On July 18, Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District officials voted unanimously to stop using anticoagulant rodenticides in public parks in Simi Valley and Oak Park.

Intended to kill rats, anticoagulants additionally cause the death of large animals including coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions that consume the poisoned rats.

Nearly all mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, hawks, owls and other wild predators in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills are exposed to rodenticides. The poisons keep blood from clotting and weaken the immune system, making animals and birds of prey less able to resist disease and vermin.

Brian Dennert, park board member, proposed the ban of anticoagulants shortly after P-47, a 3-year-old mountain lion, was found dead due to ingesting large amounts of rat poison. The cougar was known for his large size and often crossed the 101 and 118 freeways.

While the state of California has made it illegal for retailers to sell some rodenticides to the average consumer, the products are still being used by professional exterminators and farmers.

First-generation rodenticides require repeated intake of the poison bait to kill, but the second-generation poisons, also known as superwarfarin poisons, are much more deadly.

In 2014, state legislators banned consumer use of products containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum or difethialone. Several local cities also passed resolutions urging residents and business owners to stop buying and using anticoagulant rodenticides.

Yet studies show that such poisons are still a leading cause of death among local predators.

In May, Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) introduced Assembly Bill 1788 to ban the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides near urban centers. The Senate Appropriations Committee is reviewing the bill.

In 2015, the City of Simi Valley adopted a resolution discouraging, but not prohibiting, businesses and residents in the city from selling and using anticoagulant rodenticides. The city also stopped using the poison.

Dan Paranick, district manager for Rancho Simi, said it took time to find a balance between keeping the wild animals safe and keeping humans safe because rats are known to carry diseases such as salmonella and the bubonic plague.

A statement issued by the director of planning and maintenance at RSRPD said certain lesstoxic poisons, such as fumitoxin, will be used by authorized maintenance workers to contain pests at turf areas and athletic fields.

While alternatives for rat poison exist, managing rodents can be a catch-22. Some experts say that snap traps and ultrasonic repellents are often not as effective, especially against large rat populations.

In a previous interview with the Acorn, Ray Sobrino, operator of a Thousand-Oaks-based termite and pest control business, said anticoagulants are more effective than substitutes.

“If you’re going to take (poisons) away, rats are going to inbreed and overpopulate and cause a lot of problems,” Sobrino said.

To prevent a rat infestation, Paranick said, the district is partnering with Orkin to determine the most effective way to contain the rodents as they prepare to enforce the policy banning anticoagulants.