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Potential effect on raptors prompts Salmon Arm rodenticide ban on city property

City’s environmental advisory committee favours prevention, snap traps over pesticides for rats
A raptor sits atop a pole on Lakeshore Drive W. near Churches Thrift Shop in February 2020 and tears apart a rat it caught on the highway side of Lakeshore. (File photo)

A disoriented rat scurries down the sidewalk as it slowly dies from poisoning. A hawk spots it and dives, soon devouring it.

This is a scenario the city’s environmental advisory committee wants to stop.

On March 8, committee member Amy Vallarino urged the city to join a growing list of municipalities committed to a ban of rodenticides (defined as chemicals or other agents used to kill rats or other rodents) on city property.

Vallarino pointed out that Salmon Arm is known for its bird-watching, making the cut in 2017 as one of the best places for birding in B.C.

She referred to the city’s current rat problem. She recently spoke to her neighbour who has lived in Salmon Arm for 35 years, and this is the first time he’s caught rats.

Not every one will want to use a trap so they usually go to the easiest option, the bait box.

“Whatever eats the bait at the bottom, it makes its way all the way through the food web, right to the top…” she said. “Specific to Salmon Arm, we’re talking about the owls, the hawks, the raptors.”

She said an owl can eat 1,000 rodents a year. “That’s called bio-accumulation of the poison.”

Everyone knows you can’t eat tuna every day or you die of mercury poisoning, she added.

“It’s the same concept here, but the poor owl doesn’t know it’s eating poison.”

Read more: Rats rear their pointy heads in Salmon Arm

Read more: Resident issues warning after rats found in another area of Salmon Arm

Read more: City of Salmon Arm facilities not plagued by rats, no rodenticide used

She said the province has adopted integrated pest management, where a variety of methods are used, with ones that harm the ecosystem as a last resort.

Early options would include prevention, cleaning up the backyard of attractants like compost and bird feeders, and screening holes where rats might enter a home. Next would come snap traps or other traps.

A third option could be supporting an increase in raptors and owls, by increasing their nesting habitat. Fourth would be pesticides.

“If you rely only on pesticides or rodenticides, you end up killing your birds of prey who are your biological control agent.”

She urged the city to ban the use of anticoagulant rodenticides on all city-owned properties, as well as continuing and increasing its existing education program. Anticoagulant rodenticides thin the rat’s blood so it bleeds to death internally, sometimes taking up to two weeks, council heard.

“I don’t think a lot of citizens really mean to harm an ecosystem. Or have even thought about it. They just say, ‘I have a problem in my backyard and how do I deal with it.’”

Coun. Sylvia Lindgren, chair of the city’s environmental advisory committee, brought forward a new policy.

The focus was the rodenticide ban on city-owned properties, as well as a request to the B.C. government to introduce a province-wide ban. It also included an education component and a direction to incorporate humane practices – such as the integrated pest management approach where prevention and snap traps would be part of the solution.

Staff said they’re aware of previous problems with rodents at the wastewater treatment plant, when contractors were brought in.

Because Lindgren’s motion was not for a bylaw, it can be adjusted to meet the needs of city staff.

After clarifications and discussion, council voted unanimously in support.
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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