Cooper’s Hawk. Photo by Mark Wangerin, Seattle Audubon – Seattle Times Photo Contest
Seattle Audubon is working with Seattle Parks and Recreation to pilot a bird-friendly rat control solution at Cal Anderson Park by the end of April 2021. You can read more about this project and other wildlife-friendly rodent control efforts in The Stranger.
Seattle is a beautiful and rat-filled place. In 2020, our city ranked #12 on the Orkin pest control company’s Top 50 Rattiest Cities List, moving up a spot from 2019.
Before becoming a birder, rodent control only crossed my mind when it was an immediate problem for me. But now that I’ve gotten to know the Cooper’s Hawks and Barred Owls around Capitol Hill, rodent control is on my mind constantly.
You’ve likely seen them, the mysterious black boxes around buildings, near dumpsters, hidden in the shrubs, scattered around our parks. They are bait stations, often supplied with nasty chemicals in a class of poisons called second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs).
An assortment of rodent bait stations in Capitol Hill.
Once you start looking, it’s hard to not notice just how saturated with rat poison our neighborhoods are. For instance, when I surveyed one mile of 11th Ave E and Cal Anderson Park in July 2020, I counted 41 rat poison bait boxes, representing only those I could detect from the street without trespassing. Almost all contained SGARs.
SGARs are highly toxic, slow acting, long lasting, and have infiltrated terrestrial food webs. The poisons have been detected in the body tissues of more than 100 species, including 70 bird species, 40 mammal species, and even a slug (EPA 2020). The ubiquity of SGARs and their persistence in animal tissue has lead some to compare today’s SGAR use to that of DDT in the mid-1900s.
For years, Seattle Audubon has been advocating for less harmful rodent control solutions. Through our Capitol Hill Connections project, Seattle Audubon is working with Seattle Parks and Recreation to move away from SGARs. With funding and other support from Seattle Audubon, the parks department has committed to conduct its first round of bird-friendly, carbon dioxide-based rodent control treatment at Cal Anderson Park by April 30, 2021.
This is a small step, but a step in the right direction, and one that I think is worth celebrating. Currently, finding contractors and supplies for less toxic rodent control treatments is difficult. But as awareness of and demand for more wildlife-friendly pest control grows, I believe the poison tide will begin to turn.
You can read more about our project and other wildlife-friendly rodent control efforts in The Stranger.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2020. Draft Ecological Risk Assessment for the Registration Review of Seven Anticoagulant Rodenticides.