Coyotes and Rodenticide Poison

By Sarah Robertson
SPCA International Guest Writer

Maybe you’ve noticed evidence of your favorite rodent—gophers, rabbits, rats, etc. laying claim to your outdoor space or your neighbor’s.  Some may think the best solution is simple enough (although totally inhumane).  They may buy poison and place it in strategic locations or pay someone else to do it.  But before you stand by and let anyone you know take this kind of action, it’s important to realize and teach them how rodenticide poison will affect the lives of so many animals in your area – not just the “pests” they want to go away.   

Rodenticide poisons are generally anti-coagulants (such as D-Con), which means they work in a way that eventually leads to uncontrollable hemorrhaging and death when ingested by rodents.  Unfortunately, the horror doesn’t just end there.  When wildlife further up the food chain find those poisoned rodents, it almost certainly means illness and death to them too.

Benda Varvarigos, executive director of Valley Wildlife Care in West Hills, California, knows the consequences of rodenticide poison all too well.  In the last four months, her organization has taken in three coyotes affected by the poison and seen countless deaths among coyotes and other wildlife in her area.  

A coyote that eats a poisoned rodent won’t die the same way the rodent did. For a coyote, the poison can shut down its immune system, and an immune-suppressed animal is much more susceptible to disease than a healthy one.  For Brenda and Valley Wildlife Care, the coyotes in their care have all been left near death because of sarcoptic mange.  

Mange is a mite that lives everywhere.  Fortunately, our pets are generally protected through their flea and tick medication, but a coyote that ingests a poisoned rat can’t fight off the mange.  It leaves the skin bloody and black, eats away at the ears, causes internal bleeding, and eventually kills the coyote.   

According to Varvarigos, the coyotes with mange are still able to move and too smart for traps.  This makes them incredibly difficult to catch and treat, which means many die a rather slow and painful death.  Coyotes aren’t the only wildlife affected by rodenticide poison.  Bobcats, mountains lions, hawks, and other animals that eat rodents are all in potential danger.  For smaller animals, like hawks and other birds, poisoned rodents will kill them very quickly because the poison is too concentrated for their much smaller bodies.

This means that rodenticide poison is also very harmful to our pets.  Because most pets are smaller than your averagecoyote, eating or playing with a poisoned rodent can quickly lead to death.  

Thankfully, Varvarigos has many alternative solutions to recommend in order to keep rodents at bay and our pets and wildlife safe.  

  1. Use a vitamin D based poison.  It will kill rodents but nothing that may ingest the rodent.
  2. Consider using a product with coyote urine.  The smell of coyote urine will keep away rabbits, ground squirrels, and gophers because they think coyotes are near.  Shake Away, a granule product, can be used around the perimeter of your yard, and not to worry, it’s formulated so as not to attract coyotes.
  3. For rats, consider the Rat Zapper, which electrocutes them or the standard snap-trap.  But Varvarigos reminds us that rats are part of the natural order and have roles to play outside as well.  

Please, it’s up to you to spread the word!  Now that you have this information, we encourage you to print out this article and distribute it to your neighbors.  If you educate people on how dangerous these poisons can be to all the wildlife and pets in your area, you will surely save lives and prevent animal suffering.

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