British Columbia

District of North Vancouver votes to ban rat poison use

Unanimous vote means that the use of rodenticides, which are known to enter the food chain and poison birds and other small animal, will not be allowed in the municipality.

Rodenticides enter food chain and pose threats to local owl populations, councillor says

Rat poison can indirectly poison wildlife and pets. (AFP/Getty Images)

UPDATE, June 16, 2020: District of North Vancouver councillors voted unanimously Monday to ban the use of rodenticides in the municipality.


EARLIER STORY:

District of North Vancouver council is voting to ban the use of rodenticides on its municipal properties because of the threat it poses to local wildlife.

Council will vote on the ban Monday, and urge the province to consider B.C.-wide prohibition of anticoagulant rodenticides.

Rat poison has been widely criticised for how it moves through the food chain after it's ingested by a rat. Trace amounts are found in local wildlife and can be harmful to predators like owls, according to a council report.

"Anticoagulant rodenticides cause animals to suffer and die from primary and secondary poisoning and pose risks to human and planetary health," wrote Coun. Megan Curren in the report.

A 2009 study on 164 owls in Western Canada found that 70 per cent had residues of at least one rodenticide in their livers. Researchers found that nearly half of those owls had multiple rodenticides in their system.

Curren says rats that ingest the poison don't die right away and tend to move around sluggishly, becoming easy targets for their natural predators.

"I hope this is the start of the provincial and federal ban of something that's been known to cause a lot of harm," she told CBC News.

Great horned owls are among the owl species that live in North Vancouver. They can ingest rodenticide by feeding on poisoned rats. (Submitted by Lisa Green)

Detected in owls, coyotes

Members of the environmental advocacy group Owl Watch B.C. are applauding the motion. Co-founder Elise Roberts is among those who have been lobbying for a ban on the North Shore.

Roberts was motivated after coming across a dead owl near North Vancouver's Blue Ridge Creek.

"I really did grieve for that owl," said Roberts. "I guess it took finding one to really get going on this campaign."

North Vancouver is known for its populations of barred, great horned and pygmy owls. According to the council report, "a number of local owls have been confirmed, via toxicity testing, to have ingested fatal amounts of rodenticide."

Rat poison has also been found in higher-order predators like weasels and coyotes, as well as scavenger species like birds and squirrels.

Roberts says the use of rat poison outdoors in communities like North Vancouver contradicts Canada's guidelines for hazardous materials.

"These rodenticides should not be put anywhere where wildlife can be impacted," she said. "On the North Shore we have wildlife at our doorstep everywhere."

Push for province-wide ban

Rodenticide is regulated at the provincial level, so municipalities cannot issue a sweeping ban. The Ministry of Environment warns against its use, noting that can be harmful to wildlife.

The B.C. SPCA urges people to rodent-proof their homes instead of relying on rat poison.

The District of North Vancouver plans to petition the province for a B.C.-wide ban on the products, which are typically used by the commercial sector.

"I think this is a huge step in the environmental protection regime," said Marie Turcott, a member of Owl Watch B.C. "This is acknowledging that we have to weigh these risks that are posed to the environment, to wildlife, to our pets more seriously."

Turcott says she hopes other municipalities will consider implementing bans.

"The district has an opportunity to be a big leader — especially if they're planning to push such a ban and put pressure on the province," she said.

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