Conservation group says Valley foxes are being poisoned

Center for Biological Diversity sues Department of Pesticide Regulation for not protecting Kit foxes, other endangered species from ingesting highly toxic rat poison

The Sun-Gazette

BAKERSFIELD — A conservation group is suing California for failing to protect endangered species from highly toxic rat poisons. 

The Center for Biological Diversity submitted a formal notice of intent on Dec. 12 to sue California pesticide regulators for failing to protect San Joaquin kit foxes, California condors and 11 other endangered species from concentrated rat poisons known as rodenticides.

The Tucson, Ariz.-based group says more than 70 percent of wild animals tested in California in recent years have been exposed to dangerous rodenticides. Citing a 2018 report by the Department of Pesticide Regulation, the conservation group states 85 percent of mountain lions and bobcats statewide and 87 percent of endangered kit foxes near Bakersfield tested have been exposed to the toxic substances. The foxes, and other endangered predators, feed on rodents that are often infected with the poison. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has attributed the deaths of at least five kit foxes to the poison. The kit fox is the smallest member of the dog family in North America at a height of just 9 to 12 inches and weighing less than 5 pounds. They species is endemic to California and historically was found throughout the San Joaquin Valley and in adjacent foothills and grasslands. The largest remaining intact habitat is found in and near the Carrizo Plain National Monument in western Kern County and in and near Tejon Ranch in the far south of the valley.

“There’s no reason to leave the worst of the worst poisons on the market,” said Evans. “There are safe, cost-effective options readily available that don’t indiscriminately kill wildlife.”

Known as anticoagulant rodenticides, the poison interferes with blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding that leads to death. Super-toxic poisons include brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum, which are especially hazardous and persist for a long time in body tissues. Predators and scavengers that feed on poisoned rodents are frequently poisoned by these slow-acting rodenticides.

Five years ago the California Department of Pesticide Regulation prohibited the sale of super-toxic rat poisons to the general public. But in light of ongoing harm to protected wildlife, today’s legal action asks the state to extend that prohibition to agricultural users and licensed pest-control operators.

“We must put an end to the slow, painful deaths of wildlife from these reckless super-toxic poisons,” said Jonathan Evans, legal director of the Center’s environmental health program. “With safer alternatives on the market today, it’s time for California to prohibit these dangerous poisons.”

Effective, affordable alternatives to rat poison include rodent-proofing homes and farms by sealing cracks and crevices and eliminating food sources; providing owl boxes in rural areas to encourage natural predation; and using traps that don’t involve these highly toxic chemicals.

For more information on nontoxic rodent-control methods, visit SafeRodentControl.org.

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