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.

No safeguards regarding handling and storage. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

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

Media

Small mammals in Wytham Woods University of Oxford
You are here: Home poisons be aware Rat poison: time to think again

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Holkham, Norfolk: It occurs to me that every shell is an exact analogue of its wider environment

    The storms in September have dredged from the sea bottom and then flung millions of razor shells across the immense space of this beach. As I kneeled to examine a cluster, half-buried in sand by continued westerlies, I noticed that every shell was an exact analogue of its wider environment. Because each blade bore wavering bands of variant colour crosswise through its length.

    The same pattern was manifest not only in the sand ribs that continued across these vast flats, it was there also at the tide edge, where a broad curve of foam, which was turned to tin by the dazzling light, was smeared inexorably eastwards in the breeze and the froth was itself banded into the same highly transient design.

    Continue reading...

  • Exposure is far higher than previously thought and also affects plastic food containers

    Bottle-fed babies are swallowing millions of microplastic particles a day, according to research described as a “milestone” in the understanding of human exposure to tiny plastics.

    Scientists found that the recommended high-temperature process for sterilising plastic bottles and preparing formula milk caused bottles to shed millions of microplastics and trillions of even smaller nanoplastics.

    Continue reading...

  • State of Nature in the EU survey finds only a quarter of species have good conservation status

    The vast majority of protected landscapes across Europe are rated as in poor or bad condition and vital species and their habitats continue to decline despite targets aimed at protecting them, according to a report.

    Only a quarter of Europe’s species are rated as having a good conservation status, while 80% of key habitats are rated as being in poor or bad condition across the continent, in the State of Nature in the EU 2013-2018 assessment by the European Environment Agency.

    Continue reading...

  • Technology is keeping patches of Alaska permafrost frozen to preserve energy infrastructure even as indigenous residents’ world is transformed by the climate crisis

    The oil company ConocoPhillips had a problem.

    Continue reading...

  • Group urges UK regulators to impose measure on premium-listed companies

    An influential group of investors is urging UK regulators to make climate risk reporting mandatory for nearly 500 FTSE-listed firms.

    The Investment Association (IA), which represents 250 members with £8.5tn in assets, has thrown its weight behind calls for compulsory environmental disclosures, amid concerns that listed companies are not being transparent about how climate risks are influencing the way they invest and spend.

    Continue reading...

  • The bulbous-nosed reptiles were in critical decline until conservationists stepped in

    As the sunlight pierces the fog, a fisherman on a boat floating along the Gandak River in Bihar, India, spots a magnificent reptile basking on a sandbar in the middle of the river. Most people would mistake it for a crocodile but its distinctive snout tipped with a bulbous mass and elongated jaw tell him it is a gharial.

    Gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) are often mistaken for crocodiles or alligators. They are the only species in the Gavialidaefamily: river-dwellers that eat only fish and some crustaceans, and which split from all other crocodilians perhaps more than 65m years ago.

    Continue reading...

  • From coral farming to 3D printing, scientists are using novel methods to save a vital part of our ecosystem

    For most of us, the colourful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves – we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy, therefore, not to notice the perilous state they’re in: we’ve lost 50% of coral reefs in the past 20 years; more than 90% are expected to die by 2050 according to a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California earlier this year. As the oceans heat further and turn more acidic, owing to rising carbon dioxide emissions, coral reefs are tipped to become the world’s first ecosystems to become extinct because of us.

    Just because we don’t see them doesn’t mean we won’t miss them. For, as we are belatedly discovering, the nice, dry human world that we’ve made for ourselves is dependent on the planet’s natural systems and coral reefs are no exception. They protect our coastlands from erosion, they are the nurseries for the fish we eat and they harbour the plankton that produce the oxygen we breathe. Globally, coral reefs support a quarter of all marine life and the livelihoods of a billion people.

    Continue reading...

  • Guardian environment correspondent Fiona Harvey discusses why the last 50 years of environmental action have shown how civil society can force governments and business to change and why that should give campaigners optimism for the future

    Faced with multiplying and interlinked environmental crises in the 2020s – the climate emergency, the sixth extinction stalking the natural world, the plastic scourge in our oceans – it is easy to feel overwhelmed, Guardian environment correspondent Fiona Harvey tells Rachel Humphreys. But it’s also easy to forget that environmentalism is arguably the most successful citizens’ mass movement there has been. Working sometimes globally, at other times staying intensely local, activists have transformed the modern world in ways we now take for granted.

    Campaigner Janet Alty tells Rachel about how her local campaign to ban lead in petrol became part of a much bigger movement called CLEAR – the Campaign For Lead-Free Air. Their campaign took years. But in 1983, a damning verdict from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution prompted the UK government to decree that both petrol stations and manufacturers must offer lead-free alternatives. Leaded fuel was finally removed from the last petrol pumps in the UK in 1999.

    Continue reading...

  • Nobody knows precisely how wildfire smoke affects birds’ health and migratory patterns. Now, citizen birdwatchers are stepping in

    The yellow Townsend Warbler lay lifeless on the gravel ground near Grant county, New Mexico, the eyes in its yellow-striped head closed, its black feathery underbelly exposed.

    Just days before, the migrating bird –weighing 10 grams, or the equivalent of two nickels – might have been as far north as Alaska. But it met an untimely demisein theAmerican south-west, with thousands of miles still to go before reaching Central America, its destination for the winter.

    Continue reading...

  • Scientists are warning of a link between rapid warming and landslides that could threaten towns and tourist attractions

    In Alaska and other high, cold places around the world, new research shows that mountains are collapsing as the permafrost that holds them together melts, threatening tsunamis if they fall into the sea.

    Scientists are warning that populated areas and major tourist attractions are at risk.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds

Feed not found.