New Rodenticide Law – A Win For Wildlife

By
Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

On September 29th, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 1788, the California Ecosystems Protection Act, which prohibits the use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) until the Department of Pesticide Regulation completes a reevaluation and adopts additional restrictions necessary to ensure that use of rodenticides will not result in significant adverse effects to nontarget wildlife.

Rodenticide use often leads to a domino ‘death’ effect in nontarget wildlife: when small mammals such as mice, squirrels, rats, and rabbits are targeted, their poisoned bodies are often then eaten by larger animals such as foxes, bobcats, raccoons, cougars, and many large predatory birds where the poison is then secondarily ingested with a negative and often deadly effect. 

As well, data from state pesticide regulators and the federal Environmental Protection Agency document that approximately 15,000 children under age six are accidentally exposed to rat poisons each year across the country. The EPA says children in low-income families are disproportionately exposed to the poisons. Thousands of incidents of pets being poisoned by rodenticides have been reported, many resulting in serious injury or death.

Anticoagulant rodenticides interfere with blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding that leads to death. Second-generation anticoagulants — including brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum — are especially hazardous and persist for a long time in body tissues. These slow-acting poisons are often eaten for several days by rats and mice, causing the toxins to accumulate at many times the lethal dose in their tissues, which subsequently results in the poisoning of animals that feed on their carcasses. 

As a result, these powerful poisons have their greatest impact on wildlife. The exposure and harm to wildlife from rodenticides is widespread. Poisonings have been documented in at least 25 wildlife species in California alone, including: San Joaquin kit foxes, Pacific fishers, golden eagles, bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, Cooper’s hawks, red-shouldered hawks, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, barn owls, great horned owls, long-eared owls, western screech owls, spotted owls, Swainson’s hawks, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, opossums, turkey vultures and crows.

In 2014 regulations were put into place to ban over the counter consumer sales and use of SGARs restricting use to certified pesticide applicators. However, between 2014 and 2018, the Department of Fish and Wildlife found SGARs in over 90 percent mountain lions, 85 percent of Pacific fishers, 70 percent of northern spotted owls, and 88 percent of bobcats that were tested, showing that the 2014 pesticide ban was not proven to be effective. 

The law does provides exemptions for agricultural activities, public health activities, invasive species on offshore islands, scientific studies, or to control rodent infestations associated with public health needs in certain locations and under specified conditions. The bill declares violation of new law is a misdemeanor. Essentially, AB 1788 will prohibit the use of these deadly poisons in California, with some exceptions, until a definitive study is conducted to examine the effects of the poison, which could take years. In the meantime, misdemeanor penalties will be applied if the law is violated. We hope that this law will be effective in protecting the lives of wildlife in the years to come.