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Rodents and Raptors and Poison- Oh My!

Rodents are creatures that have been driving mankind crazy for centuries. Humans have tried several ways to manage the rodent population in order to continue life safely, and through science, rat poison was created.

Rat poison is used widely to control rodent populations in human-populated areas. It affects (and works on) nearly anything that ingests it. While this is a great solution to the rodent issues that are faced in Suburbia and on farms, this negatively affects other animals that are predators to these rodents. These predators are mostly birds of prey- such as owls, hawks, falcons, and kites. Hundreds of birds are killed monthly nation-wide by ingesting prey that has ingested this poison.

Most of these poisons are anti-coagulants, meaning that they thin the creature's blood to the extent that they bleed out internally within days. This is akin to a human taking too much of their blood thinner, which can be fatal. While sometimes these birds are found in time enough to use therapies to reintroduce coagulation factors to the birds' blood, more often than not we are too late. The birds that can be saved from this poison have been shown to carry a remainder of the poison in their liver and possibly other organs, though we do not know the long-term effects of this remainder poison.

How can we fix this issue? How can we make sure the rodent population is under control and at the same time avoid using poisons that can adversely effect other organisms higher up in the food chain?

The answer is more simple than one might think- simply stop using rat poison on your property. When this is done, less birds of prey (who regularly eat these rodents) will die, increasing their population, meaning that more of them will be eating the rodents. Once a balance is reached in the ecosystem, the raptors will eat the rodents at a rate that keeps the population under control. Eating the rodents will decrease the chances of successful mating for them, resulting in a lower rodent population.

In one year, a barn owl can eat up to 1,000 rodents. Allowing birds of prey like a barn owl to freely eat the prey in their environment will not only preserve the species for years to come; it will help the environment around them to find balance and work as nature created it.

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