Rat poison: time to think again

Published in Poisons Beware

Just as the use of insecticides does not solve a mosquito problem, vermin are not controlled by repeated use of poisons.

Rat poison lodged in letter-box. Rat poison lodged in letter-box. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

For many years, rat poison has been delivered to households all over the island in totally inadequate cellophane bags. To make matters worse, the instructions are inside, so the poison has to be handled if you want to read them. Foreign residents who do not know Croatian are at a disadvantage. One thought that the white tablet which comes with the red warfarin mixture was the antidote. Luckily, they had no occasion to try it, as the tablet is a separate poison meant for septic tanks, and has no antidote. The antidote to the warfarin is vitamin K. Warnings that the poison is about to be delivered are patchy and haphazard. While the official Stari Grad website always carries advance notice, that has not been the case elsewhere. In Pitve it was usually a small notice taped to the rubbish bin a day or two beforehand. However, during 2016 there has been an improvement in Jelsa, with warnings being given on the Council's website as well as on the Town Hall notice board.

Warning of the impending poison delivery on the rubbish bin. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

By law, vitamins have to be packaged securely, but it seems that rat poison does not. EU membership has not changed this irresponsible and dangerous custom. The bags are left apparently randomly around the villages. I have found them variously on a window sill, dangling from my post-box, even on top of my car! Delivery is clearly irresponsible. Are the poisons used in a more responsible manner? All too often, they are simply placed in heaps around a property, even where they may be a hazard to pets or young children. The safest way to put down such poisons - if you feel you must - is to use a rigid tube with access holes at either end large enough for mice or rats, but too small for other animals.

Packaged rat poison as delivered to local households. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

While vermin within buildings present a problem and possible health hazard, the same is not true of mice and rats in the wild, which have their place, not least in the natural food chain. For an insight into their lifestyles, see the video below, or click here.

Given regular doses of poison, rats become resistant, so poison is not the solution. On the other hand, although the poison is not supposed to attract other animals, it does, and cats and dogs have died through eating it. The more's the pity, as cats keep rats, mice and even snakes under control. For any major rat infestation, the best methods for avoiding the problem of resistance are to let tenacious dogs like Jack Russell terriers hunt them, or to use traps.

Rat poison delivered to a car roof. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The local councils must spend quite a significant sum of money on distributing these poisons. Looking at the 2015 financial report from Jelsa Council, I was unable to identify exactly how much was spent on the campaigns against vermin and insects, as these items were not identified individually. Is this money being spent wisely? I think not.

In the United Kingdom, poisons against vermin are available, but are not generally distributed by local councils. They were (and maybe still are) distributed on request. Some sixty years ago, when we lived not far from London, my brother, sister and I came home from school to find an unmarked jam jar on the kitchen table. Ever adventurous, my sister delved in. “Cheesy“, she purred, and continued to satisfy her hunger. There was no fridge full of food in those days, indeed no fridge, and the larder was empty. However, Brother and I were more cautious, and refused her kind offer to share. Our mother's horror when she came home from work sometime later and asked where the rat poison was can be imagined. Sister spent the night in hospital, where diligent stomach pumping saved her life. I think that was the last time the local council left unmarked rat poison in anyone's home in an innocent-looking, insecure jam jar.

On Hvar in recent years I have managed to stop the deliveries by putting up notices round my property saying 'Otrov ne hvala' ('Poison, no thanks'), a tactic I recommend to anyone who does not want to be burdened with handling or storing hazardous substances.

My warning notice: No poisons!

Uncontrolled poison distribution is obviously hazardous. Coupled with the fact that poison is not an efficient method of controlling pests, the current policy needs to be reviewed, and practices need to be substantially improved - as a matter of extreme urgency.

© Vivian Grisogono 2016

Related items

Media

You are here: Home poisons be aware Rat poison: time to think again

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Six-year-old Xanda was shot and killed by hunters when he roamed outside the protected area of the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe

    A son of Cecil the lion has been killed by trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, meeting the same fate as his father whose death in 2015 caused a global outcry.

    Xanda was six years old and had fathered a number of cubs himself. He was shot on 7 July just outside the Hwange National Park, not far from where Cecil died, but news of the death only became public on Thursday.

    Continue reading...

  • Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked wild mammal and decimated Asian populations have sharply shifted the focus of exploitation to Africa

    The true scale of the slaughter of pangolins in Africa has been revealed by new research showing that millions of the scaly mammals are being hunted and killed.

    Pangolins were already known to be the world’s most trafficked wild mammal, with at least a million being traded in the last decade to supply the demand for its meat and scales in Asian markets. Populations of Asian pangolins have been decimated, leaving the creatures highly endangered and sharply shifting the focus of exploitation to Africa’s four species.

    Continue reading...

  • Hotels and local government in Cancún will pay premiums, and insurance industry will pay out if the reef is damaged by storms

    A stretch of coral reef off Mexico is the testing ground for a new idea that could protect fragile environments around the world: insurance.

    The reef, off the coast of Cancún, is the first to be protected under an insurance scheme by which the premiums will be paid by local hotels and government, and money to pay for the repair of the reef will be released if a storm strikes.

    Continue reading...

  • Summer’s here, and so are bees. These new macro images by Alejandro Santillana are being showcased in the Insects Unlocked project at the University of Texas at Austin

    Continue reading...

  • Photographer Matthew Staver and writer Oliver Milman visited the US National Wildlife Property Repository, where illegal wildlife products, from stuffed tigers to worked ivory, are stored and counted

    If the US had a national house of horrors, it would probably be the federal government compound that lies on the fringes of Denver, Colorado, incongruously set within a wildlife reserve where bison languorously dawdle against a backdrop of the snow-crowned Rockies.

    The National Wildlife Property Repository, operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), is a warehouse of the macabre. It’s a Noah’s ark of protected deceased biodiversity that smugglers attempted to get into the US before being caught by FWS staff at airports and ports.

    Continue reading...

  • The endangered wild dogs are well adapted to high temperatures but a warming world means pup survival is plummeting, study shows

    Rising temperatures are making it too hot for African wild dogs to hunt and the number of their pups that survive is plummeting, according to a new study. The research is among the first to show a direct impact of increased heat on wildlife that appears well adapted to high temperatures.

    There are only 7,000 African wild dogs left in the wild and they have lost 93% of their historic ranges to humans. Research earlier in July suggested that a “biological annihilation” of wildlife in recent decades means a sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history is already under way.

    Continue reading...

  • First global analysis of all mass–produced plastics has found humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes since the 1950s with the majority ending up in landfill or oceans

    Humans have produced 8.3bn tonnes of plastic since the 1950s with the majority ending up in landfill or polluting the world’s continents and oceans, according to a new report.

    The first global analysis of all mass–produced plastics has found that it has outstripped most other man-made materials, threatening a “near permanent contamination of the natural environment”.

    Continue reading...

  • The vast majority of newly built stations in Indonesia relied on export credits agencies or development banks, says study by Market Forces

    The much-discussed boom in coal-fired power in south-east Asia is being bankrolled by foreign governments and banks, with the vast majority of projects apparently too risky for the private sector.

    Environmental analysts at activist group Market Forces examined 22 deals involving 13.1 gigawatts of coal-fired power in Indonesia and found that 91% of the projects had the backing of foreign governments through export credit agencies or development banks.

    Continue reading...

  • Brexit department warns EU counterparts it will ‘return waste to its country of origin’ if an agreement on nuclear cooperation cannot be reached

    Britain has warned the EU that it could return boatloads of radioactive waste back to the continent if the Brexit talks fail to deliver an agreement on nuclear regulation.

    In what is being taken in Brussels as a thinly veiled threat, a paper setting out the UK position for the negotiations stresses the right “to return radioactive waste … to its country of origin” should negotiations collapse.

    Continue reading...

  • Catholic order builds chapel in middle of cornfield in attempt to use religious freedom protections to block Atlantic Sunrise pipeline

    Catholic nuns in Pennsylvania are resisting plans to build a $3bn pipeline for gas obtained by fracking through its land by creating a rudimentary chapel along the proposed route and launching a legal challenge, citing religious freedom.

    The Adorers of the Blood of Christ order has filed a complaint against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in a bid to keep the pipeline off their land. The nuns’ lawyers argue in court papers that a decision by FERC to force them to accommodate the pipeline is “antithetical to the deeply held religious beliefs and convictions of the Adorers”.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds