The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing tighter restrictions on certain toxic chemicals that people use to kill rats and mice and is asking the public for feedback.
The poisons routinely sicken other animals including owls, eagles, foxes and mountain lions. Earlier this year, they likely caused or contributed to the deaths of at least four beloved great horned owls in Safety Harbor.
The federal agency’s proposed rules would restrict who could use select chemicals that interfere with blood-clotting in rodents. In a 92-page document released this week, the EPA recommended that only certified pesticide professionals, or employees under their supervision, should be allowed to deploy some of the most lethal poisons. The rules are not yet final.
“These mitigation measures are intended to reduce exposure to non-target organisms, such as mammals and birds that may inadvertently consume rodenticides through their prey or animals that may have consumed the rodenticide directly,” the EPA said.
Rat poisons travel up the food chain. Birds, like owls, may eat contaminated rats or mice, unknowingly accumulating poisons in their bodies with each meal.
More than a decade ago, the EPA tried other measures to limit the availability of such lethal chemicals to everyday consumers. But rodenticides have continued to harm and kill unintended victims.
After the Safety Harbor owls died this year, a grassroots coalition of residents in Tampa Bay popped up in opposition to select rat poisons. Members plan to write to the EPA and encourage strict limits on some of the deadliest chemicals.
The EPA says it will accept public comments on its proposal until Feb. 13. Learn more about the proposed rules and how to comment here.