B.C.’s rodenticide ban could be having unintended consequences: Pest control industry

Click to play video: 'Has B.C. rodenticide ban increased the population of mice and rats?'
Has B.C. rodenticide ban increased the population of mice and rats?
WATCH: Now that B.C. has permanently banned some rodenticides, some pest control experts say there has been a marked increase in the population of mice and rats. Jasmine Bala reports – Apr 10, 2023

British Columbia’s new restrictions on the use of certain rodent poisons may be having an unintended side effect, amid reports of growing rat and mouse populations.

As of Jan. 31, B.C. permanently banned the sale and use of a class of poisons known as second-generation anti-coagulants, with an exception for certain sectors deemed “essential services,” like food production or health-care facilities.

The move is an extension of an 18-month ban first implemented in 2021, which followed advocacy by conservationists who said the rodenticides were killing owls, along with some other raptors and predators that eat rats and mice.

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Looking at long-term and cooperative ways to manage the rat population
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“We were noticing a lot of animals were being secondarily poisoned by rodenticides. Owls, which are the natural predators of rodents, were dying and are still dying actually,” Lisa Brasso, campaign director for Rodenticide Free BC, told Global News.

“There’s just a lot of dangers with rodenticides for the environment, human health and pets. Rodenticides don’t actually solve the problem in the long term. It’s been shown that rodent populations increase over time with the use of rodenticides, so there are more effective methods.”

Click to play video: 'Call for ban on rodenticides due to increasing raptor deaths'
Call for ban on rodenticides due to increasing raptor deaths

But some pest control companies say the ban has come as the province — and particularly the Lower Mainland — face a growing rodent population.

Toronto took the top spot on pest control company Orkin Canada’s annual list of “rattiest cities,” but Vancouver came in second place, and half of the top 10 cities were in B.C.

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Mike Londry, who owns Westside Pest Control, said the rodent surge began more than a decade ago when Vancouver had its last garbage strike.

“It hasn’t slowed down since then. It’s just been a continual uptick and in the last couple of years we’ve definitely seen a further spike again,” he said, adding that the company has now seen a 40 per cent year-over-year increase in rodent prevention calls.

Londry, who has been in the business for 17 years, said rat and mouse calls used to come primarily in the fall and winter, but are now a year-round effort.

“There’s definitely been more mice calls, a lot more challenges,” he said.

“There aren’t as many tools in the toolbox even for the professionals anymore, so what is a really good thing that the province has implemented for many reasons, has become challenging and may have some really adverse, negative health impacts.”

Brasso told Global News she wants to see second-generation anti-coagulants fully banned, along with the older first-generation class of poisons, and argued the pests can be better controlled by sealing up properties and reducing attractants.

“There are companies that do this and have been shown to be very successful in mitigating rodent populations by using these measures without needing to use rodenticides,” she said.

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Click to play video: 'Several bald eagles accidentally poisoned on Vancouver Island'
Several bald eagles accidentally poisoned on Vancouver Island

Orkin Canada Pacific regional manager Ryan Wood said there is no question B.C. is facing a growing rodent problem.

“Honestly I don’t know if there is a downtime anymore,” he said. “One hundred per cent, if you’re not killing off rodents quick enough, they’re going to multiply.”

Orkin doesn’t use second-generation poisons, even in the circumstances permitted by the ban’s exceptions, he added. But he said the regulations have highlighted the importance of integrated pest-management techniques, which include tackling all of the conditions that allow mice and rats to proliferate.

That includes careful inspection of building perimeters and envelopes, and ensuring all holes — even those as small as a quarter — are properly plugged with materials like metal, which rodents can’t chew through, he said.

It also includes properly cleaning up any feces, urine or other traces the animals leave behind, which are packed with pheromones that attract more pests.

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Click to play video: 'Why Vancouver is B.C.’s rattiest city'
Why Vancouver is B.C.’s rattiest city

“We can keep knocking down the rodents inside with mechanical traps and various things of that nature, but if we don’t stop them from getting in, we’re going to keep catching them, but they’re going to keep coming,” he said.

Londry said the ban isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that it needs to be supported with dialogue with the pest control industry and the public to ensure it is working.

He added that the exemptions for rodenticide use in “essential services” won’t be effective if those businesses are connected to other units where the poison can’t be used.

“You can only service the exact units, so if there’s three units in a commercial building, and only one of them is an essential service, that’s the only one of them that can be serviced,” he said.

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“It’s kind of like playing whack-a-mole. It’s a challenge for sure.”

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