To the editor:

Bothered by mice? Notice a rat in the neighborhood? Then read on. You could become complicit in the death of a bald eagle or your neighbor’s dog, or even the poisoning of a child, without even knowing it.

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2014 more than 8,800 people were poisoned by anti-coagulant rodenticides. The majority were children under the age of 6, and included six children who died. But people are not the only ones in danger. These deadly poisons can take 10 days to kill an animal, which will continue to ingest the tasty poison until it becomes a stumbling, dying critter or a lifeless carcass, heavily contaminated and easily ingested by another animal, often one of our beautiful birds of prey, or perhaps someone’s dog or cat. Secondary and even tertiary poisoning of non-target animals is well documented in a wide range of animals including owls, vultures, coyotes, cats, otters and bald eagles. During nesting season, adults can bring this deadly prey to their nest or den, poisoning their own young. This creates a vicious cycle of killing our natural rodent control predators through the use of deadly second-generation rodenticides, including brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum.

In 2015, the EPA banned the over-the-counter sale of these rodenticides, but did not ban their use by the pest control industry. Enforcement of the over-the- counter ban has been inconsistent, and pest control companies continue to lace their bait stations with these weapons of mass destruction. As a well known Canadian stated when debating the use of these deadly poisons, “These rodenticides are the equivalent of using a sledge hammer when a fly swatter will do.” There are other methods that are effective, including old-fashioned slap traps, first-generation anti-coagulants used judiciously, and innovative ideas such as installing raptor nesting boxes in areas heavily used by rodents, which has been successful in California wine country. And, as the city of San Francisco did with its “Don’t Take the Bait” campaign, educating the public about the environmental impact of these poisons is of paramount importance, since they are still widely available. Educating hardware stores to voluntarily withdraw these products from their shelves can also help reduce their use.

Look carefully as you drive around town. You’ll be surprised where you will see professionally installed bait stations in plain sight. Last summer some children I was supervising found an interesting rock to incorporate in their play; it was a bait station disguised as a rock. Luckily, in this case, I was supervising.

I urge our City Council, our Animal Advisory Committee, the Board of Health, and you, the general public, to devote some time to studying and taking action on this issue for our community. Second-generation anti-coagulant rodenticides are overkill. They are killing our natural rodent predators, and spreading poison up the food chain. They could be the new DDT.

Caroline Haines

Gloucester