'Impossible to control': Industry says rodenticides needed to manage pest infestations in B.C. amid calls for poison ban
As the owl advocacy group Rodenticide Free BC calls on the province to completely ban the use of rat poisons in B.C., retailers have begun pushing back on the idea.
Kelvin McCulloch is the president of Buckerfield’s, a home goods and outdoor gear company, and he says if an all-out ban were to happen, the rodent population in the province would rise out of control.
"Any feed store in British Columbia is always at risk of having mice and rats in it," said McCulloch.
At Buckerfield’s in Nanaimo, it wasn’t just a few pesky rodents that plagued the store.
"It was probably 10,000," said the president of Buckerfield’s.
Roughly $200,000 worth of inventory had to be thrown out. The store was closed for months as the walls were ripped apart to fix the damages caused by the mice and that cost around $300,000 itself.
McCulloch estimates that $500,000 worth of business was lost during the store's closure.
He says that if rodenticides were to be banned completely in British Columbia, there would be no way to effectively control the rodent population.
"It is impossible to control rodent infestations after the trapping rate is exceeded by the breeding rate," said McCulloch.
'A PERMANENT BAN'
Rodenticide Free BC is calling on the provincial government to all-out ban the use of the poison in B.C.
The call comes after several owls were believed to have died after consuming rodents that had ingested rat poisons on Vancouver Island.
The most recent owl was found dead near the Ministry of Environment building on Jutland Road in Victoria.
"We are asking for a permanent ban of rodenticides," said Deanna Pheifer with Rodenticide Free BC.
Currently, there is an 18-month ban on the use of rodenticides in B.C. That policy is set to expire in January 2023.
The poison can still be used by licensed pest control companies around buildings that are deemed an essential service.
"So this is our current inventory of rodenticide in the Nanaimo store," said McCulloch as he unlocked a secure storage shed outside the back of the Buckerfield’s store.
Buckerfield’s sells rodenticide, but McCullock says it’s only because customers continue to ask for it. Even then, unless the customer asking is a certified farmer or pest control operator, the store can’t sell it to them.
He says the problem with the current ban or an all-out ban is that it’s not based on hard data. Nobody really knows for sure how bad the rodent population is, nor does anyone know the actual number of predator birds that are dying after eating a poisoned rodent.
"We are not interested in having owls harmed in any way," said McCulloch. "We have been selling rodenticides for as long as they’ve been around and to my knowledge we still have a healthy owl population in the province."
In the meantime, McCulloch says rodenticides are needed and he has thoughts on a solution.
McCulloch would like the see the government set up an online registry system where people who have rodent infestations can apply for a one-time permit to purchase the poison themselves and use it on their property. This would also allow the province to get some hard data on problem rodent populations, he says.
"What needs to happen is the province needs to decide that it is going to control rat and mouse infestations," said McCulloch.
A registry would allow the province to know the extent of infestations, and provide a database that it can refer to, says McCulloch.
"It’s going to have the ability to facilitate or enable people to take care of the infestations in their homes and their businesses properly," he said.
He says right now, relying on pest control companies that are often too busy to respond is not effectively working.