Originally printed in The Hartford Courant

The Environmental Protection Agency determined second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides were so harmful that they pulled them from consumer shelves in 2014. Unfortunately, SGARS are still readily available on the internet to the public, and licensed pest control companies can still use them.

The pest management professionals will say they know how to safely use SGARS — also known as brodifacoum, bromodialone, difenacoum and difethialone. But if the EPA deemed these ingredients so harmful that they can’t be sold in Walmart, Home Depot or Lowes, doesn’t that tell us no matter who uses them, SGARS are extremely unsafe?

Presently, 322 people hold commercial pesticide certification in the rodent category in Connecticut. The evidence that SGARS pose an unreasonable risk to our state’s raptors, foxes and other wildlife is piling up, which is why legislators need to pass SB 962. The legislation, championed by state Sen. Christine Cohen, would ban the use of SGARS in Connecticut and stop the senseless killing of wildlife that suffer and die from internal bleeding after consuming poisoned rodents.

California put a moratorium on SGARS in 2020 and British Columbia’s temporary ban of SGARS was made permanent last month.

Sometimes the levels of anticoagulants in their liver won’t kill hawks, owls or eagles, but they will impair their ability to fly and avoid car strikes. Other impacts to wildlife such as foxes and coyotes include devastating immune system diseases such as mange.

Predators such as raptors and foxes are the best natural solution to rodent control. One family of barn owls can eat 3,000 rodents in one breeding season. Harming and killing the animals who naturally regulate rodent populations makes no sense for Connecticut.

Anticoagulant rodenticides work by disrupting the normal blood clotting process so that dosed mice or rats suffer from uncontrolled bleeding or hemorrhaging. The most potent class of anticoagulants are SGARS.

What’s unique about SGARs is that rodents frequently eat more than a single dose at one feeding, and since the effects are delayed and the rodent doesn’t die instantly, this allows the rodent to continue consuming the toxins, which results in a super lethal build-up in their tissues. Predators don’t have a chance against the potent ingredients that make up SGARS.

A Place Called Hope Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Killingworth has been dealing with the aftermath of SGARS at an increasing rate, and has been submitting specimens of red-tailed hawks, barred owls, great-horned owls, Cooper’s hawks and other birds to UConn for testing. One or more of the SGARS ingredients were detected in 34 out of 42 specimens recently submitted for anticoagulant panel testing.

Wildlife In Crisis in Weston, Connecticut’s largest rehabber with 35 years of experience, estimates that at least 100 birds of prey and 40 foxes annually die in their care from SGARs. They all arrive convulsing and bleeding internally without external trauma. These deaths are heartbreaking to watch.

Connecticut should act on the deaths immediately, not wait for further study.

Dr. Maureen Murray, director of Tufts Wildlife Clinic in Massachusetts, has been studying the effects of rodenticides on wild birds of prey for over 10 years. Her most recent 2020 study revealed that 100 percent of the 43 red tailed hawks tested showed positive results for both first- and second-generation anticoagulant poisons, with SGARs being the most prevalent.

Well-heeled chemical industry lobbyists will have you believe there will be a public health crisis without SGARS. But there have been no rodent outbreaks in California or British Columbia since 2021 when their bans went into effect.

Not to mention SB 962 only targets the worst class of rat poisons. There are plenty of other rodenticide products available.

But the truth is, the best line of defense will always be sanitation and exclusion, not poisons. The SGARS bait box scam cycle will never effectively manage rodents.

A Connecticut-based company that doesn’t use poisons instead inspects foundations to determine entry points and provide exclusion options. Staff refuse to use rodenticides because they poison the food chain and are adamant such poisons are just a band-aid. Until openings are secured, rodent issues will continue.

Another line of defense: letting nature take its course.

Ventura County Public Works in California has demonstrated raptors are more effective than poisons. Staff installed 14 raptor perches, one hawk nesting platform, and one owl nesting box along flood control levees plagued by burrowing ground squirrels. They reduced ground squirrel burrowing by 50 percent.

Connecticut needs to ban SGARS and let nature take its course.

If you’re a CT resident, please contact your state senator and representative and tell them to support SB962 with a strengthening amendment that would put a two-year moratorium on the use, application, sale and distribution of SGARS in CT to allow CT DEEP and our state’s wildlife rehabbers to continue to study their deadly effects on non-target wildlife. You can find your legislators here.

Nicole Rivard is government relations manager of Friends of Animals. Christine Cummings is Director of A Place Called Hope.