YOU CAN HELP: Tackle toxins, protect wildlife with SEA-RATS

That Cooper’s Hawk fledgling is looking to you for help. The photo is by Kersti Muul, who also brought this call for volunteers to our attention. It’s from the recently founded Seattle chapter of the advocacy group RATS – Raptors Are The Solution. Their goal is to save wildlife – and pets, too – from rat poison, by documenting its use and urging users to switch to eco-friendly methods of rodent control. For example, their call to action notes, “The owls are hooting about Seattle University, which has rid its campus of poisons and is safely managing rodents using integrated pest-management strategies.” The organization also notes:

As of May 2020, an on-going research project to evaluate effects of rodenticides on raptors by the Urban Raptor Conservancy has studied 60 deceased urban raptors (20 barred owls). They were taken to PAWS in Lynwood and tested for rodenticides in their livers.

Overall, 82% of the birds tested positive for at least 1 anticoagulent rodenticide
73% of those birds had 2 different rodenticides
55% had 3 or 4 different rodenticides
The percentage is even higher for owls alone because they eat rodents almost exclusively and their livers cannot metabolize the poisons as well.

2 Barred owls were rescued from Key Arena during construction. One died with the highest levels of second generation rodenticides of any raptor studied to date. The other was treated with Vitamin K and released.

We have hundreds of raptor (Coopers Hawks, Merlin, Barred Owl, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Merlin, Peregrine) nests in the City of Seattle. Most raptors eat rats.

Here’s what they need help with:

We need volunteers to help count rat poison bait boxes that are placed in urban bird and wildlife habitats. We will have a brief data collection training session and organize folks for social distance walk-abouts. We need to know where the rat poison is being used so that we can contact business owners and organizations’ facilities managers to urge them to use nontoxic Integrated Pest Management methods for managing rodents. Rat poison is not only killing rats; it is killing their natural predators (raptors) and poisoning the entire foodweb.

For more info, including who to contact, see this flyer.

18 Replies to "YOU CAN HELP: Tackle toxins, protect wildlife with SEA-RATS"

  • Kersti Muul August 16, 2020 (1:53 pm)

    Thank you so much Tracy.This will be in collaboration with us on the Seattle Audubon Conservation Committee.*New data has just been released, that the number is now 95% of the birds tested positive.We welcome your help in tackling this difficult issue.

  • ITotallyAgreeWithYou August 16, 2020 (2:46 pm)

    This is fantastic! I used to work at the Key and have seen owls sitting on pipes in the loading dock. Seattle Center has its share of mice and rats and there are traps everywhere. Given this action and the rescue or attempted rescue of the two owls on Seattle Center grounds, has RATS been in conversation with leadership at Seattle Center to switch to a more raptor-friendly solution?  If so, what has been the result? Thank you for doing this and sharing the info!

    • Kersti Muul August 16, 2020 (4:37 pm)

      We are working on getting data to help us start conversations. We need viable options so we are at that research moment now, and then will be approaching people.We also want to work on legislation to get them banned.

    • SEA-RATS August 17, 2020 (9:34 am)

      Seattle Center is definitely on our top target list. Thank you!

  • who-cooks-for-you August 16, 2020 (3:46 pm)

    Glad to learn of this organization and their efforts.

    If property owners could put more attention to cleanliness and conditions both in and outside their properties, the rat issues at their locations could be better mitigated, and the raptors could take care of the rest.  Frustrating to see conditions conducive to rat issues, and then rat poison boxes nearby.

    • SEA-RATS August 17, 2020 (9:40 am)

      Thank you for your interest and support for this important cause. We are hopeful that once people understand how they can help make a difference, they will! We just need to get the word out and SEA-RATS and Seattle Audubon are working together to achieve that. 

  • anonyme August 16, 2020 (4:12 pm)

    I’m really glad someone is tackling this issue.  Poison is a bad idea for so many reasons.  In addition to the potential victims already mentioned, poisoned rats often make their way into walls and crawl spaces before dying, creating yet another problem.  I had John from Adept Pest rodent-proof my crawl space some years ago and haven’t had a problem since.  He’s big on IPM rather than poisoning programs, which I appreciated, and not dismissive of the fact that I did not want to kill anything.

    • SEA-RATS August 17, 2020 (9:45 am)

      Thank you for the support! It’s motivating to know that people care about this issue. I have placed AdeptPest on our Seattle list of recommended rodent management companies that do not use poisons. The list will be complete soon!

  • newnative August 16, 2020 (7:59 pm)

    I have to say,  I seem to see a lot more of those rat traps all over the place and I have encountered dead rats, raccoons and today a little mouse that don’t look to have been killed or touched by other wildlife. I live in North Admiral. The businesses here are using a lot more single-use packaging and creating a lot more trash and it’s not being picked up frequently enough. 

    • Kersti Muul August 16, 2020 (9:00 pm)

      A quick and easy solution is cracking down on sanitation and making sure everyone deals with their trash responsibly. Lots of critters become impacted as it makes it’s way up the food chain, and the death is very slow and unpleasant. Like the mouse you saw there’s no visible trauma; they bleed out internally. I’ve seen squirrels and rats and mice and owls die this way right here in West Seattle.With ‘to go’ orders now the new normal, you’re right, there’s so much more plastic, but it should be being placed in the proper bins. 

  • SJ August 16, 2020 (8:24 pm)

    We lost our cat to a neighbor’s rat poison. So grateful this is happening so other families can avoid going through that (along with the multitude of other benefits to wildlife and our community). Thank you to the organizers and to everyone who plans to volunteer.

    • Kersti Muul August 16, 2020 (8:54 pm)

      I’m so sorry you had to experience that. It definitely happens more than people are aware of, so thank you for speaking out. We are constantly chasing the cat when it catches mice because the neighbors use it. Luckily we have gotten them from him, but how many are there that we didn’t notice him catch.Heartbreaking about your kitty. Nature’s perfect little rodent control. 

  • barbara s spector August 16, 2020 (8:24 pm)

    a few at Tracy Ann apartments right next to Pelly Place.

  • Kersti Muul August 16, 2020 (8:55 pm)

    The city is littered with them. Will be compiling a pin drop Google map of our surveys. Will be shocking when it’s done.

  • Tanea Stephens August 17, 2020 (9:30 am)

    Thank you West Seattle Blog for sharing this important information. It looks like many of your readers are interested in helping with the bait box inventory survey, which is terrific! We need an army of concerned citizens to give our urban wildlife a fighting chance.  We will share the West Seattle results when they become available. 

  • KM August 17, 2020 (2:48 pm)

    I will keep an eye out for these boxes and be sure to report. We are having a rat issue (including some witnessed muricide) here. When reaching poison-free solutions (which we are implementing), we have seen suggestions for “owl boxes” on properties for mitigation. Has anyone here had any luck with that? We would love to have owls and other predatory birds around, but not sure how to go about it. 

  • Kersti Muul August 18, 2020 (3:47 pm)

    That’s a tricky one with the status quo… Encouraging owls/raptors to eat urban rodents means they will probably ingest more poison. Barred owls aren’t having an issue nesting, in fact I had a box removed to help an owl nest; she ended up having a successful brood and then tragically died in December from two types of rodenticide. She also fed those poisoned rodents to her chicks. Screech owl boxes would be good. The holes need to be smaller and I actually have several here already constructed. You can contact me about habitat and box placement selection. There are about 50 Cooper’s Hawks nest in Seattle, and at least 5 in West Seattle. Providing perches and having good mature trees encourages them to come around and nest. Without trees and suitable nesting habitat, all the nest boxes in the world won’t help. We have many options through integrated pest management that don’t involve poison if you are interested.

  • SEA-RATS August 20, 2020 (7:30 am)

    SEA-RATS regrets that it mistakenly referenced the Key Arena owls as “Barred,” but they were in fact “Barn,” and the estimate of hundreds of raptors nests was based on SEA-RATS’ internet-based research and not data reported by the Urban Raptor Conservancy. 

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