Deanna Pfeifer wanted to spend more time in nature.
After retiring as a nurse in 2019, she wanted to get outdoors, where her travels led her to observe an owl near her Saanich home on Vancouver Island.
She watched it, photographed it and videotaped it, then one day she discovered the owl dead on the ground below its familiar perch.
“It was a morning under perfect conditions… there were no feathers around, no sign of injury,” Pheifer recalled in an interview with Black Press Media.
“I wanted to find out what happened to it, and that led me to learn it died from rat poisoning, and that led to me to where I am now advocating for a ban on rodenticides and alternative ways to control rodent problems besides using these poisons.”
Pfeifer has joined a group connected through social media taking up the rodenticide ban, having already talked with the provincial agriculture and environment cabinet ministers, and circulating a petition to convince municipal councils to adopt the ban.
In the Okanagan-Shuswap region, the City of Salmon Arm council has taken that step, becoming the first municipality outside of the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island to adopt the ban.
“We applaud the City of Salmon Arm for making progressive and humane pest control a priority for local wildlife and community members,” said Dr. Sara Dubois, the BC SPCA’s chief scientific officer.
Pfeifer says research science data collection is clearly showing how rodent poison control measures are being introduced into the food chain thereby affecting other animals.
“In my area, seven raptors were found dead last year, and they are dying from eating poisoned rodents,” she said.
“Dogs and cats can even get infected if exposing themselves to a poisoned rodent, and it can cost $5,000 to $10,000 to treat your pet if that happens.
“Pest control (using poisons) is not cheap and is temporary. It doesn’t deal with the problem which becomes never-ending.”
She said a poisoned rat dies a slow, painful death after being poisoned, one which leaves them vulnerable to other wildlife who feed on rodents, and in doing so consume the same poison infecting the rat.
“If anything they become even more toxic because they continue to eat the bait because they are hungry.”
Pfeifer cites a research study in Santa Monica, Calif., where it was discovered mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and foxes were all found to have rodenticide residue in their bodies.
“It has a lethal effect on an animal’s immune system,” she said.
Pfeifer argues there are more human practices for solving rodent problems, noting the ministry of agriculture is currently testing one of those strategies on farms as a pilot project.
New companies are also popping up which market themselves on using humane treatments practices to deal with rodent infestations.
She points to Humane Solutions, a company developing CatchData, a new trap technology that provides a poison-free method for managing rodent populations by providing instant, automated kills. Besides being eco-friendly the technology provides actual data so the need for control measures can be assessed and addressed rather than ambiguously applied.
“We believe this is a game-changer for the industry,” she said.
“There are easy alternative options to using rodenticides and we are hoping the minister of environment acts very soon to recognize that.”
For tips on how to rodent-proof your home, check out https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/getting-rid-rodents.
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