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Saturday, February 1, 2014

The "first Robin of the spring" is a total myth in Texas

American Robin
If someone you know is trying to spot “the first Robin of spring”, ask that he (or she) keep an eye out for the Easter bunny at the same time. Truth is, Robins live in Texas year ‘round. In addition to the native population, Robins from up north come down to the south (including Texas) when snow and ice up there deprive them of food. They’re calm all winter and live away from human activity, but Robins tend to get a lot more active now, as mating season approaches, territories are claimed and insects re-appear. They’ll strip a berry-shrub clean in no time!

RAT POISON KILLS MORE THAN RATS     Rat and mouse poison isn’t consumed just by rodents. When we see a rodent the impulse is to visit your local hardware store or big-box store and get some commercially-available poison (they’re all pretty much the same).  But what most of them don't mention on the label is that most of these poisons will kill owls, hawks, songbirds, pets and other non-target wildlife too. Maybe even children (or make them very sick).

These common rodent poisons are called “second generation anticoagulant rodenticides". They go under names like Hot Shot, d-Con, Generation, Talon, Spectrum and Havoc. The E.P.A. has declared them too dangerous for public use, and ordered them off the market. But many stores are selling off their huge, existing stocks. Some manufacturers are even defying the order and continuing to make it despite the EPA order (probably because they're making big profits).

There are rodent devices that are totally efficient, but far less dangerous to non-target wildlife, pets and youngsters. An internet search uncovers them. These, coupled with common-sense practices, effectively reduce mouse and rat populations ONLY.  Practices include putting tight lids on trashcans, not leaving pet’s food outside all night and the liberal use of ammonia as a deterrent.
soon-to-be-dead Screech Owl

Of course, the best rodenticide by far is owls (helped by coyotes, foxes, bobcats and hawks). Killing them off, along with the rodents, means that when the prolific rodents repopulate, you’ll be battling many more of them, but without natural allies.


OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at in Denton.

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