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Rat Poison - Bird-safe Alternatives

Rat poison hurts birds of prey, too.

August, 2014 - GOOD NEWS! Thanks to American Bird Conservancy and others, Reckitt Benckiser has agreed to pull 12 d-CON products off the market! Check the transcript to learn of alternatives for dealing with pests.

When birds of prey die from rodenticides, it’s a double whammy, because there are fewer birds to control the rodents. This Barn Owl – and the members of its family – can consume about 1,300 rats per year! Fortunately, there are safe and humane alternatives to rat poison, like electric traps. Learn more in Related Resources below.

Full Transcript



Rat Poison: Bird-safe Alternatives 

Written by Chris Peterson

This is BirdNote. 

[Calls of Great Horned Owl]  

Last year, rats moved in under the hood of our old Volvo and ate holes in the hoses. [Rats chewing] Next, they took up residence in our heat pump and chewed through the electrical wires. These things cost a bundle to fix! I had to find a way to deal with rats that wouldn’t harm or kill the owls and hawks that hunt around our house. 

[Calls of Great Horned Owl]  

When rats eat the super-toxic poisons in pellets and pastes, it takes them a few days to die from internal hemorrhaging. When birds eat the rats, they ingest that poison, too. [It can last 170 days. Some 70% of raptors tested in California had at least one anticoagulant rodenticide in their body.] When birds of prey die, it’s a double whammy because then there are fewer of them to control the rodents. [For example, a family of Barn Owls can consume about 1300 rats per year.]

EPA told the makers of d-CON, and others, to re-formulate their rat-poison products in protective bait stations and stop selling the acutely toxic “second generation” anti-coagulants on the retail market. Most complied, but d-CON didn’t. I still see these products on the shelves at my local hardware store. 

So what to do? OK, I just bought an electric rat killer – a device that rats climb into and get shocked. No way this could cause secondary poisoning. [pause] American Bird Conservancy and the Safe Rodent Control Resource Center have good information about non-poisonous control. We can link you to their websites. 

How do you tackle this problem? Let me know on our Facebook page or at For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.

[Call of Great Horned Owl]


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Hoots of Great Horned Owl duet [22874] recorded by W.R. Fish.

BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2013 Tune In to  December 2013  Narrator: Mary McCann.

ID# ratpoison-01-2013-12-12 ratpoison-01   

Special thanks to Cynthia Palmer, Pesticides Program Manager, American Bird Conservancy.

For a complete list of the homeowner use rat and mouse products that meet the EPA’s safety standards, visit: 

For a complete list of Reckitt Benckiser Inc.’s non-compliant products, visit:

The EPA’s final Notice of Intent to Cancel will be available in the EPA docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2013-0049 at After Federal Register publication of the Notice of Intent to Cancel, Reckitt Benckiser will have 30 days to request a hearing before an EPA Administrative Law Judge. If a hearing is not requested, the cancellations become final and effective.

Information on Rodenticide products and EPA’s review is available at:

More information on preventing and controlling rodents is available at: