At particular times of the year, we wage war on rodents across Tasmania's landscape in both urban and rural settings, often through the use of poisons.
For some time we at Landcare Tasmania, plus a number of our groups, have been concerned about the impact these poisons are having on our wildlife.
The threat is very real and some poisons have a greater impact than others. Wildlife specialist Nick Mooney has presented at a number of awareness raising info sessions run for groups around the state and his review paper was published in Tasmanian Bird Report Volume 38, July 2017 (Birdlife Tasmania).
Birds of prey, such as the endangered Masked Owl (see images), are particularly vulnerable to rodenticides. When they eat dead or dying rodents they are poisoned themselves. Other predators and scavengers like quolls and devils are also at risk of secondary poisoning. But there are ways to minimise our impact.
Landcare Tasmania is running a program to raise awareness of the positive choices that communities and businesses can make to reduce the impact of rodenticide poisons on raptors.
Please consider donating to our program. Your donations will go towards developing educational materials, and towards engaging with people across the whole community to raise awareness of the positive choices everyone can make.
Image credits: (1) Phil Milner, (2) Bill Flowers
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What Can I Do?
Controlling introduced rats and mice is a necessity for many of us, whether on farms, in the bush or in town. However there are several things you can do to limit the impact on our wildlife. For most people using a combination of the methods described below will give the best results.
Use manual traps
The old style mice and rat traps, live cage traps, plus some of their newer types like electric traps, still have a role to play in controlling rodent populations, particularly when not in large numbers. Such mechanical or electric deaths are safe for scavengers or predators because there are no poisons to pass on.
Use lower impact poisons
Most rodenticides (poisons designed to kill rats and mice) are based on anticoagulants chemicals that kill by promoting uncontrolled internal bleeding. Older types of anticoagulants, called First Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides (FGARs), require rodents to take multiple doses and therefore kill more slowly but have less effect on animals that eat poisoned rodents. More recently developed Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides (SGARs) are used much more widely mainly because of the convenience of their “single dose” effect. They kill rats and mice more quickly but more residual poison is ingested by raptors or other scavengers/predators and so can significantly affect local populations. When using rodenticides a choice to use FGARs may well make the difference for your local raptors.
"But how do I know which is which?"
Fortunately, most SGARs are clearly labelled “single dose action” and you can check the label for the active ingredients.
SGARs (more toxic) - Brodifacoum, Bromadioline
FGARs (less toxic) - Warfarin, Coumateralyl
Remember: No poison is completely safe, so use poison as a last resort.
Better prepare your facilities
How you physically prepare your property can make a difference to whether rats and mice will come in looking for food. Properly sealing houses and buildings so as to restrict entry is particularly effective, though can be difficult to achieve. Restricting the availability of food is also important, for example using rat and mice-proof compost heaps and using chicken feeders that are designed only to release food in quantities needed to feed your chickens.
And remember that others may not even know their impact; from shopping centres to your neighbours, if you are trying to protect habitat you need to get others on board, so don't forget to ask and look at the alternatives.
Have a look at Nick Mooney's review paper HERE
Reptile Study Impacts HERE
Check out Healthy Wildlife, Healthy Lives for a bit more detail and links to other studies.