Groundbreaking Study: Birds -- Not Poison -- May Be the Answer to Protecting Levees From Rodent Damage

A fascinating new study out of Ventura County, California has found that wild birds -- when enticed to an area near flood structures -- offer better protection from rodent damage than rodenticides.

The groundbreaking study was conducted by the Ventura County Watershed Protection District at two sites near a levee at the Revolon Slough in Oxnard. At one site, toxic bait stations were used to control the population of ground squirrels that can cause serious damage to levees. At the other site, predatory birds like hawks were wooed to the area with the installation of a 20-foot perch, a barn box, and other items useful for nesting and hunting.

The Ventura County Star reports that the bird site saw 66 percent fewer ground squirrel burrows than the site that employed rodenticide. When they removed the poison from the control site and installed bird perches there, they witnessed 47 percent fewer burrows.

The findings were presented to the Board of Supervisors in January. The county plans to further limit its use of rodenticides as a result.

"We are in the process of removing bait stations from the dams and looking at the levees as well," said Public Works Deputy Director Karl Novak.

The findings are important because rodenticide is such a pernicious environmental toxin. The anticoagulants frequently move up the food chain and spread well beyond the intended victims, harming pets and other wildlife.


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