Rats kill coyote. Rats poisoned with anticoagulant rat poison that is, of course. Who is next in this chain of death?
In February 2017, a young and otherwise healthy female coyote turned up dead in Douglas Park of San Francisco. The dead animal did not show any outward signs of injury. It did not die because of a car accident either. Was it poisoned because it roamed a popular park threatening small fluffy white dogs?
Coyote in Seal Beach, CA (OCRegister)
Wildlife experts performed a necropsy on the coyote to find the cause of death. The examination revealed that the animal had died from massive internal bleeding caused by four different kinds of anticoagulants. Among them warfarin, a first generation rat poison.
Warfarin is also used to thin the blood of human stroke victims to prevent blood clotting. To prevent uncontrolled internal bleeding, patients must see their doctor to have the level of thinning checked every two to four weeks. If left unchecked, warfarin can also kill a human.
Many kinds of rat poison can affect humans. In its mild form, rat poison can cause nosebleeds, bleeding gums, bloody urine, bloody diarrhea, loss of hair, and bruising to name a few symptoms of poisoning with anticoagulants in humans.
Anticoagulants are, however, primarily used for rodent control. The active ingredients in these rodenticides are brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone or difenacoum. The dead coyote had obviously consumed enough rats and mice poisoned with the anticoagulants to bleed to death internally.
“If an animal the size of a coyote can ingest enough poisoned rats to kill her, there is no arguing about the prevalence of rodenticides in our environment, and the extreme danger of using these poisons,” said Kelle Kacmarcik, Director of Advocacy at WildCare.
As a result, these rodenticides are strictly controlled. Only licensed pest control operators are allowed to use these most dangerous pesticides. Homeowners and local residents are restricted from using them.
However, the case of the coyote killed by poisoned rats shows that dangerous anticoagulants are still freely circulating among homeowners, businesses, and local residents. Difenacoum, for example, was advertised, and maybe still is, as a ‘safe’ rodenticide.
The dead coyote tells us clearly how safe it is. It is unlikely that a human would consume enough rats to die from it. Nevertheless, there is a chance, however faint, that humans might eat other animals that are poisoned with any of the anticoagulants.
But does that justify the uncontrolled use of such dangerous poisons, for example, to kill the neighbor’s Chihuahua because it never stops barking? Or her cat for killing songbirds? Of course not. But it does happen more often than most of us would admit.
On the serious side, there is another irresponsible use of anticoagulants on wildlife. Remember, the California Hunting Post recently reported that authorities in Texas authorized the use of bait poisoned with anticoagulants on wild pigs.
Here we have another example how financial interests and eradication crusades can start a chain of unintended consequences. Feed poisoned bait to wild pigs, let scavengers, in turn, consume the carcasses, and watch the poison spread over time through the food chain.
Poisoned mountain lions, coyotes, birds, and pets will eventually litter Texas together with dead wild hogs. What if some uninformed humans cook the meat from a poisoned pig? Oh, you say, the fat of the wild pig is blue indicating that it is poisoned. But what if I carefully cut out only lean meat and sell it to an unsuspecting buyer?
A dead coyote, poisoned by warfarin, just turned up in Douglas Park in San Francisco . . .