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Rat poison linked to owl's death: Take poison-free pledge

Owl in Arlington. / Laura Kiesel photo

Town bans 2nd-generation anticoagulant rodenticide

UPDATED Jan. 12: This letter to the editor is from Laura Kiesel of Arlington. She has a master's degree in environmental science and conservation biology. As a journalist, she has covered the impacts of rodenticides on wildlife for DIG Boston and Salon. Her most recent feature article on the topic, "Battle SGARs," was selected as a finalist for the David Carr Award for Investigative Reporting by the Association of Alternative News Media." See a second letter below. This appeal was updated with a link to town action, above.

In November, it was discovered that a resident Great Horned owl whose mate and two fledgling offspring were found dead last spring of suspected rodenticide poisoning had finally attracted a new mate. However, on Dec. 4, the new mate was discovered collapsed on the ground, coughing up watery blood. She died shortly after. The rehabber who treated the owl reported her blood would not clot, a tell-tale sign of rat poisoning.

Great Horned Owls often mate for life until one of the pair dies. They spend most of their time together -- roosting in trees, preening each other, serenading each other, feeding each other and then raising their offspring together. Another Great Horned Owl pair in neighboring Belmont have been together for over 12 years. Yet, our Great Horned Owl male is now deprived of his natural behavior of being part of a pair while we are deprived of having this species thrive here.

In Arlington Heights this past weekend I looked at shop windows containing paintings of holiday scenes by our local children, most featuring cartoon owls. Owls in our culture are often given a mythical reverence, and are treated with special awe particularly by children.

We are fortunate to have real owls in Arlington. But the tragic irony is that some of these same shops bearing their likeness this season actually use poisons that are swiftly extinguishing owls from our town. We are also in turn getting rid of our best natural defense against rodents–especially as rat poison itself has been shown to increase rodent populations.

These businesses that depend on rodenticides are also undermining the larger local economy as wildlife tourism brings in precious revenue that cannot be replaced. Our owls and eagles draw people from all over the metro area, the state and even the region. I've met people at our local parks and conservation lands who have driven all the way from New York City and Maine to see and photograph our wildlife.

Some of us who have been growing increasingly concerned about these losses recently started a grass-roots group called Save Arlington Wildlife. As part of this effort, we are launching a poison-free pledge campaign. If you are a business owner or a patron of a business and value our local wildlife, please take or urge the businesses you like to take the poison-free pledge.

Additionally, people can email the Chamber of Commerce and ask them to spread the word about rodenticides to their member businesses and residential landlords here >>

There is also this petition to the Housing Corporation of Arlington that requests that they stop using rodenticides at their properties as they had previously publicly committed. See it here >>

 Considering rodenticide poisoning also impacts young children -- especially young children living in low income housing -- the HCA has a responsibility to its tenants and the greater community to help lead in these efforts. You can also email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information or to become involved in our efforts.

We must become better stewards to this world than we have been, and take our collective responsibility to the other species we share our home with seriously. Otherwise, we risk creating a landscape void of wonder and beauty -- and one that (ironically) will have more rats in them than if we let our birds of prey thrive.


This letter was published Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. For more information and photos by Kiesel, see Save Arlington Wildlife. 


 Rodenticide endangers owls at Menotomy Rocks 

Marci Cemenska of Lexington, a founder of IndivisibleLAB (Lexington, Arlington, Bedford), sent the following letter a day after Kiesel's was published. 

Many people may not realize that Great Horn Owls reside in Menotomy Rocks Park. These majestic creatures pick a mate and proceed to try to have a family. Unfortunately, the use of rodenticide is having disastrous results: We have lost four owls in the last five months -- a mother and its two owlets this spring and more recently the new mate for the “widowed” male. All these owls died tragic deaths from rodenticide, specifically SGARs (Second Generation Anticoagulant Rodenticide).

If you walk around Arlington, you will see many black boxes outside of businesses and apartments, These boxes contain rat poison. This poison not only kills the rodent, but it kills or sickens anything that eats the rodent. We are losing raptors, fox, coyotes, cats, dogs and more. And it is not just wildlife - 10,000 children in the U.S. are sickened every year from rodenticide. These animals are nature’s rodent control -- they actually do a way better job than the bait boxes, and we are losing them.

One of the tragic facts of this situation is that there are safer alternatives. Using integrated pest management would identify what is attracting the rats in the first place. Even if that doesn’t solve the problem, there are still better alternatives to SGARS -- snap traps, electric shock traps, live traps and more. One can find lots of information at raptorsarethesolution.org.  

In the mean time, there are ways that one can help:


This letter was published Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2022.

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Comments

Guest - gina on Thursday, 29 December 2022 14:31
Laura K - question - did your last sentence leave out these words?

"We must become better stewards to this world than we have been, and take our collective responsibility to the other species we share our home with seriously. Otherwise, we risk creating a landscape void of wonder and beauty -- and one that (ironically) will have more rats in them than if we DO NOT let our birds of prey thrive."
https://www.yourarlington.com/component/easyblog/entry/15-environment/3203-poison-121922.html?Itemid=406164

"We must become better stewards to this world than we have been, and take our collective responsibility to the other species we share our home with seriously. Otherwise, we risk creating a landscape void of wonder and beauty -- and one that (ironically) will have more rats in them [i][b]than if we DO NOT[/b][/i] let our birds of prey thrive." https://www.yourarlington.com/component/easyblog/entry/15-environment/3203-poison-121922.html?Itemid=406164
Guest - Shoshana (Shana) Alexander on Monday, 19 December 2022 18:54
Follow Israel’s Lead

Israel is a world leader on using owls themselves to control rodent populations.
The country’s experts are sought after by a plethora of nations.

https://focusingonwildlife.com/news/israel-leads-the-way-using-barn-owls-and-kestrels-to-replace-rodenticides/

Israel is a world leader on using owls themselves to control rodent populations. The country’s experts are sought after by a plethora of nations. https://focusingonwildlife.com/news/israel-leads-the-way-using-barn-owls-and-kestrels-to-replace-rodenticides/
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