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Natural allies threatened

Raptors help keep farm rodent populations in check—if the birds can survive poisons that also are used to deal with the problem.

By Judie Steeves N

aturally, the best method to control outdoor rodent pests is encouraging raptors such as

owls and hawks to patrol your fields for you.

Ironically, people are killing these natural controllers of rodent populations by careless use of poisons intended to kill rodents.

When raptors hunt rodents and happen to consume those that have ingested poisons such as warfarin, those poisons can also affect the big birds. (Warfarin-containing baits are not approved for field use.) While they may not die

immediately or directly, the poisons get into their internal organs, accumulate, and can affect their ability to navigate and avoid such dangers as moving vehicles and

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2016 19

power lines, so they die-sometimes as an indirect result of the poison they ingested.

With this in mind, it’s essential if you use pesticides to combat problems with voles, moles or field mice that you use the correct product and in the right way.

For instance, only Ramik brown, Ramik green and Ground Force paraffinized pellets are approved for field use. Hombre, Weatherblok XT, Ratak and Terminator are not. All approved anticoagulant rodenticides must be placed in bait stations in the field, to prevent access by children, pets, livestock and un- targeted wildlife.

Irene Wilkin, regional pesticides

Wildlife biologist Sofi

Hindmarch with barn owl.

officer with the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency, explains that growers must read the label before using any pesticides, even if it’s one that has been used many times before, because there have been changes in regulations in recent years as more has been learned about the impacts of their use.

If you’re purchasing rodenticides, ask for those approved specifically for field use. Those rodenticides labelled for indoor use or in and around buildings are prohibited for use in agricultural fields, and must always be placed in sturdy locked bait stations.

Around packing plants, she advises that baits should be placed by a

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