The Trust's work - rodenticide advisory
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Cause for concern
With 80-90% of farms using rodenticides, rodenticide poisoning and rodent control is a constant cause for concern at the Barn Owl Trust. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Barn Owls eating poisoned rodents. Figures from the government's own Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme* show that in 1983/84 the proportion of dead Barn Owls found to contain rodenticide was 5% and by 2012 this had increased to a staggering 87%. [2009-89%; 2010-91%; 2011-84%].
Most users have no idea
Most people who use rat poison appear to have no idea about the risk to wildlife and pets; they think that bait-covering prevents Barn Owls being poisoned. In reality, no amount of bait covering makes the slightest difference because poisoned rats and mice take 3-14 days to die, during this time they carry the poison out into the open within their bodies and are then eaten by owls and other predators such as foxes and cats. This is termed secondary poisoning.
Most of our advisory work with farmers and landowners includes advice on safer rodent control. Our information leaflet ‘Rodent Control', first written in 1989, has been updated several times and provides information on ways of controlling rats without using the more toxic ‘second generation' poisons. It also lists rodenticide products grouped according to the chemicals they contain and recommends their suitability for use (or not) where Barn Owls are present. We also provide a web page on safer rodent control.
"Rodenticide manufacturers know that their products kill Barn Owls and other predators. The information on rodenticide containers is totally inadequate. It does not say ‘this product kills Barn Owls and other protected species'. It does not inform the user that ‘bait covering makes virtually no difference to secondary poisoning'. It does not say ‘91% of Barn Owls analysed contain this type of poison' and it does not say ‘we do not know what effect this is having on predatory birds'."
David Ramsden MBE, Head of Conservation, Barn Owl Trust
Rodenticide product labelling is inadequate and misleading. For example 'secondary poisoning' is not even mentioned. Labels give the impression that bait covering and carcass removal adequately protect wildlife but but this is obviously untrue. Since 2006 the words "Harmful to Wildlife" have been added to rodenticide labels - but this is only a small step in the right direction.
In 2013 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) began a review of the use of Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides (SGARs) thus providing a great opportunity for us to contribute to the debate and hopefully achieve a dramatic improvement in product labelling that will lead to reduced predator poisoning. We are currently petitioning the Minister responsible for Pesticide Licencing (Mike Penning MP)... Please go to our petition page
*Walker, L.A., Llewellyn, N.R., Pereira M.G., Potter, E.D., Sainsbury, A.W. & Shore, R.F. (2012). Anticoagulant rodenticides in predatory birds 2010: a Predatory Bird Monitoring Scheme (PBMS) report. Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Lancaster, UK.
"A wake-up call for the rodenticide industry, & the Health and Safety Executive that licences pesticides..."