Breath of Clarity

Endangered Species and Wildlife- Popular Media Analysis

The Associated Press wrote a news article in the Los Angeles Times depicting the interference of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides with conservation of threatened and endangered wildlife. The authors explained lethal chemicals linger in various rodents and kill their predators. For example, a Department of Fish and Wildlife study revealed, from 2014 to 2018, second-generation rodenticides were found in more than 90% of deceased mountain lions who are designated as a threatened species in Southern California (Associated Press 2020). The same study noted the second-generation rodenticides were found in the majority of tested bobcats, Pacific fishers and northern spotted owls (Associated Press 2020). Furthermore, the substance is killing the existence of endangered San Joaquin kit foxes (Associated Press 2020). The authors also focused on the steps being taken to minimize the impact second-generation rodenticides have on wildlife. In 2014, the government banned consumer sales of second generation rodenticides and restricted household use to licensed exterminators while still allowing the chemicals to be widely used in agriculture (Associated Press 2020). The 2014 regulation demonstrated the strong foothold stakeholders in the agriculture industry have in the politics of wildlife conservation. As a response, other opponents, such as pest control and apartment management groups, argued the rodenticides are a key tool to prevent disease stemming from rats and mice (Associated Press 2020). On the other hand, the authors explained, conservationists pushed for stronger restrictions as they asserted the dying predators play important roles in naturally maintaining the ecological community (Associated Press 2020). From there, the authors portrayed the signing of Assembly Bill 1788 as a recent win for threatened and endangered species conservation.

In September of 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1788 to widely restrict the use of the second-generation rodenticides (Associated Press 2020). However, the bill does permit using the poisons to protect public health, specifically naming rodent infestations that pose an urgent and “significant” risk to human health (Associated Press 2020). The bill also permits use to protect water supplies, eliminate non-native species and for “certain” other agricultural uses (Associated Press 2020). Moreover, the Governor’s ruling is in place until the state Department of Pesticide Regulation certifies the chemicals have been reevaluated and any additional restrictions needed to limit impact are adopted (Associated Press 2020). However, there is still no deadline for the department to do so (Associated Press 2020). The stakeholder conflicts leading to a law with ambiguous wording cause the fate of the predators to be in flux.

The state’s handling of the rodenticide issue shows how issues concerning threatened and endangered species tend to play out. The bill’s enactment illustrated a problem impacting a threatened species is likely to be placed high on the government’s agenda if any powerful stakeholder views the species as majestic (CBS News 2019). Newsom’s father was a strong advocate for mountain lions and installed care for them in his son (Associated Press 2020). That said, it makes sense the Governor signed Assembly Bill 1788 to protect the threatened creature close to his heart. At the same time, implementation of the law is severely lacking insofar as there is a conflict between animals and humans present (CBS News 2019). Since opponents of the law were able to leverage the potential damage rodents pose to human health and agricultural pursuits, completely banning rodenticides without exception still remains a struggle. Further, both Assembly Bill 1788 and the article’s authors implied there is no other way to control the rodents aside from using the deadly chemicals that are killing threatened and endangered species.

Instead, my opinion is for the law to completely ban the use of rodenticides and mandate other means must be used to control the rodent population. Safe alternatives include multiple-entrance snap traps and electrocuting traps (Williams 2013). Further, first-generation rodenticide baits can still wipe out rodent populations without killing other types of wildlife (Williams 2013). The use of alternative techniques can also halt the negative impact rodenticides have on human health. A four-year survey by the Environmental Protection Agency found that at least 25,549 children under age six consumed enough rodenticide to suffer poisoning symptoms (Williams 2013). Currently about 15,000 calls per year come into the Centers for Disease Control from parents whose children have ingested rodenticides (Williams 2013). Meanwhile, the bill permits using the poisons to protect public health in the case of rodent infestations that pose significant risk to human health. However, by not explicitly defining the term “significant,” the law is ambiguous when it should rather be recognizing the adverse effect rodenticides have on human health. That said, although the bill functioned well in terms of bringing attention to the issue, it insufficiently combats the problem.

The article both promoted and hindered the Endangered Species Act’s ability to conserve wildlife. The authors did well by clearly illustrating the lethal connection between second-generation rodenticides and predators. Informing people about the dangers second-generation rodenticides bring to wildlife may keep some people, who are already engaged in wildlife conservation, from using the substance. However, the authors did not accurately convey the scope of animals killed by the substance. They left out many types of species. Further, they did not mention the threat second-generation rodenticides pose to human health. Excluding these points misses the opportunity to make the problem relatable to people. Similar to Governor Newsom, other people would be more willing to engage in wildlife conservation who see the link between second-generation rodenticides and a particular species they care about. Therefore, I would make a list of species across the nation who die from second-generation rodenticides and present it to the public. Also, interviewing mothers with poisoned children would be useful to show the detrimental impact second-generation rodenticides have on human health. Emphasizing the need to improve wildlife conservation for the benefit of all, including humans, is crucial to engage people who would otherwise be limited by the article’s perspective.


Associated Press. 2020. “California Tightens Rules on Rat Poisons That Kill Wildlife and Pets”. Los Angeles Times. Accessed January 30 2021. CBS News. 2019. “On the brink: The Endangered Species Act.” CBS news. Jul 21, 2019. Video, 7:57.

Williams, Ted. 2013. “Poisons Used to Kill Rats Have Safer Alternatives”. National Audubon Society. Accessed January 30 2021.