Mice/rats in your house or business? Call the pest control company.

A company representative will come to your door and tell you the poisons they use are “safe.” Alert: they’re lying.

“But they’re not allowed to lie,” said a man who told me he had found a dead hawk on his land. When queried, he admitted he had recently hired a local company to get rid of the mice in his house. He seemed baffled.

“Safe … poison,” I said. “There’s no such thing. It’s a contradiction in terms. They’re mutually exclusive.”

Most people don’t understand what they’re doing when they use rat poison. The rodents eat the bait, stagger out of the building looking for water, and are easy prey for whatever carnivore happens to be passing by, be it wildlife or someone’s pet. A poisoned rodent can kill whatever eats it, and death by poison is a very bad way to go.


The kicker is you don’t even have to hire a company that will lie to you about how safe their poisons are – you can just assume government agencies are watching your back, buy it from a store, and use it yourself.

By the early 1980s, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was aware that poison control centers were reporting 12,000 to 15,000 calls annually regarding children under the age of 6 ingesting rat poison, and rodenticides were documented as causing large numbers of secondary poisoning in wildlife. In 2004 – more than 20 years later – the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) had to sue EPA in order to get them to do anything about it. Four years later, EPA gave poison manufacturers three more years (are you adding this all up?) to eliminate the most toxic of their ingredients and to repackage their products more safely. Three companies refused to comply: Reckitt Benckiser, Liphatech, and Spectrum Group.

EPA began cancellation proceedings, and at the eleventh hour Liphatech and Spectrum Group pulled the most dangerous of their products from the shelves. However, the day before the deadline, Reckitt Benckiser (the manufacturer of D-Con) contested EPA’s decision. This means not only can they continue poisoning kids, pets, and wildlife for years while the case drags through court, but now they have a monopoly on the market.

Need an example of “hypocrisy?” Look no further than Reckitt Benckiser’s website: “The Company strives to act in accordance with the laws … of the countries in which it operates, (and it) operates with integrity.”

What to do?

Support and follow Raptors Are The Solution (RATS), a Berkely, CA group whose goal is to get all poisonous rodenticides off the shelves. Originated in 2007 as a one-woman war by former Wildcare volunteer and raptor enthusiast Lisa Viani, it grew into an effective, hardworking coalition of citizens which attained non-profit status and then became a fiscally sponsored project of Earth Island Institute.

RATS  is co-founded by Golden Gate Raptor Observatory Director Allen Fish and favors the multi-pronged approach: blanketing the press with articles, producing leaflets and pocket guides, copying San Francisco’s Don’t Take the Bait campaign (which persuaded retailers to voluntarily stop selling certain poisons) and successfully installing it in 15 other cities.

Images of the Barn Owl above have been posted in subways and bus stations; a huge banner will soon grace the Montgomery Street BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station in San Francisco; and in the works are billboards to be posted in Northern California, where marijuana growers’ use of rodenticides is impacting local raptor populations (“Did Your Pot Kill A Hawk?”) as well as a rare mammal, the California fisher.


RATS persuades local governments to pass anti-poison resolutions using facts, figures, photos, and a Claymation video (“Raptor Blues”) made by high school student Ian Timothy  (which, Lisa observes, often makes people ‘get it’ far faster than the written word). They fight ludicrous new proposals, such as the one which would take rat poison out of the hands of the public, yet allow pest-control companies to use it as long as it is within 50 feet of a building (seriously). They pass around the website of Safe Rodent Control, which gives alternatives to poisons.

Kudos to this awesome group, which has changed minds, laws, and continues to raise awareness of an environmental disaster which too many people don’t even realize has been taking place.

And a derisive raspberry to Reckitt Benckiser, whose website declares, “We are committed to helping to improve children’s health, hygiene and social development around the world,” but doesn’t add, “except the ones who keep eating our badly-packaged rat poison.”

Besides D-Con, Reckitt Benckiser manufactures Woolite, Calgon, Finish, Lysol, Mucinex, French’s Mustard, Clearasil, etc. See the website for a self-congratulatory description of their efforts to plant trees, but no mention of their slaughter of the birds who might want to land on them. Scroll to the bottom for a list of products you can boycott.

Photos of Cooper’s Hawks by Tony Brake.


Written by Suzie
Suzie Gilbert is a wild bird rehabilitator whose shameful secret is that on more than one occasion she has received a female LBJ, or a fledgling whatever, and has been completely unable to ID it. Luckily she has birder friends who will rush to her aid, although she must then suffer their mockery. She is the author of her bird-rehabbing memoir Flyaway (HarperCollins) and the children's book Hawk Hill (Chronicle Books). Her recent suspenseful, bird-filled adventure novel Unflappable (Perch Press) was selected by Audubon Magazine as one of their Three Best Summer Reads of 2020. She lives in New York's beautiful Hudson Valley and is always up for a good hike.