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Local wildlife rehabilitators renew call to stop use of rodenticides

Angel Russell/KCBX
An owl recovers from rodenticide poisoning at the Pacific Wildlife Care facility in Morro Bay.

Staff at Pacific Wildlife Care in Morro Bay say they are seeing far too many animals coming in for rescue and treatment due to rodenticide poisoning.

Shell Beach resident Kate Capela works at the Central Coast Aquarium and has several years of animal rehabilitation work under her belt. So when an opossum was found lethargic during the daytime on a neighbors porch, they called Capela for advice.

“Her breathing was really shallow, I said ‘She looks a little off, I’d feel better if we just gathered her up and sent her up to Pacific Wildlife, the vet can look at her,’” Capela said.

The opossum died at the care center, from what was determined to be rodenticide poisoning. Property managers and pest control companies continue to use rodenticides for the purpose of killing rats and mice.

“Depending on your pest control company, they will have all kinds of scientifically-questionable literature that they can cite that say it's not a problem because this is how they make their money,” said Pacific Wildlife Care Director Vann Masvidal. “But it is very much a problem.”

Masvidal said more opossums, bobcats and great horned owls are being brought to the center due to rodenticide.

“[Those animals] see these sick rodents and they don’t understand that they are filled with poison and they eat them and they’ve ingested that poison as well,” Masvidal said.

Recently, two adult owls and a baby owl came to the center for care. The adults died from rodenticide poisoning, but the baby owl is healing in rehabilitation.

Staff are teaching the young owl how to hunt and fly, since it now has no parents to help learn those skills.

“After what it's been through, it's very unusual for it to thrive and survive for so long,” Masvidal said. “I think it's got a good shot at release.”

Masvidal and other wildlife rehabilitators recommend when hiring a pest control company, ask them not to use rodenticide. If you have a rodent problem, he says, research other ways to get rid of them that don’t require poison.

“Wildlife has a hard enough time living as it is,” Masvidal said. “If you value wildlife and nature, it’s just something you should think about.”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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