The pictures floating around the internet were graphic. Two once-thriving, healthy mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains confirmed dead in the past two months alone from rat poison. Los Angeles County has taken steps to ban rodenticides that, once ingested by rats, move up the food chain, eventually poisoning other wildlife. Other cities abutting wildlife corridors have jumped on the bandwagon to rid their communities of poison that sickens and kills other animals and can endanger pets and humans, but analysis by our city attorney states that not only has LA County claimed it has yet to enforce its ban on any private property; the City of Malibu is also pre-empted from enacting a ban, the city attorney said, due to its status as a general law city.

While the city doesn’t use rodenticides on city-owned property and has banned sales, there is still not an all-out ban on private property owners, including shopping centers that typically use bait boxes to control the rat population. That’s not enough to safeguard the community and wildlife, according to Poison Free Malibu, which staged a demonstration Friday to bring awareness to the problem and encourage business owners to use other environmentally friendly methods to control pests. Nearly 40 residents, including Council Member Jefferson Wagner and Mayor Pro Tem Mikke Pierson, marched from Legacy Park to Pacific Coast Highway carrying signs to alert the public about the dangers of rat poison.

“This ban on rodenticides is critically important because most, if not all, the mountain lions being tested in the Santa Monica Mountains are testing positive for poisons,” demonstrator Jae Flora-Katz said. “The Santa Monica Mountain range has banned them. Malibu runs the entire length of those mountains and these rodenticides are all across our city.  The lions, hawks and owls are coming here eating our poisoned rats and mice and are dying. It’s incumbent on this city council to pass the ban immediately.”

Even though there’s a ban on city property, Flora-Katz commented, “The amount of city property is miniscule. It’s not only a horrible death for the lions, owls and bobcats, but also for the rats and mice. They’re just living and existing. 

“The city has been promising a ban for eight years,” she continued. “It still hasn’t happened, and yet, the Santa Monica Mountains was able to ban and it was approved by the Coastal Commission and LA County.  There’s no reason why Malibu can’t do the same.”

Kian Schulman of Poison Free Malibu said, “We already have pesticides in the air we breathe, the water we drink and food we eat. It’s especially important we stop this wildlife pesticide chain of death.”  Schulman claims 80 to 90 percent of local animal predators are being sickened by rat poison in bait boxes. 

The inconspicuous boxes are often used at shopping centers. The bait boxes attract rodents inside who then emerge full of toxins. In five to 10 days they likely die, but their weakened states leave them more vulnerable to predator attacks that spread the poison up the food chain. 

“A recent study of 111 mountain lions in 37 California counties showed 95 percent had rat poison,” Schulman cited.   

Assembly Bill 1788 attempts to ban the most toxic poisons in the state. It moves to the state Senate in January.  

“The city has a pesticide free policy for city property and we thank them very much; however, we need to ban the rest of Malibu from using these toxic poisons as LA County who sits on top of us has already done,” Schulman implored. 

On Dec. 9, the issue will go before the city council. 

“We’re not asking them to do any more than other cities have done,” Schulman noted. Wagner blamed “deferred decision making” for the delay on a council vote. 

Friday’s demonstration initially planned to target Urban Outfitters, but Schulman instead thanked the company for changing its policy shortly before the date of the march. 

“They’re very sympathetic. They want to do the right thing. We’re thanking them today (for no longer using poison),” he said. The group said one of the biggest offenders is the Colony Plaza owned and managed by the Kroenke Group. 

A receptionist at the Missouri company said the office does not respond to media inquiries.

So, how can one control a growing rat population without using poison? It starts with controlling garbage.

“Open dumpsters equal an unlimited food supply,” Schulman explained.

Keep bin lids securely closed. Don’t leave food out. And use exclusion techniques like securing homes and businesses to make sure there’s no openings for critters to enter. 

“Our goal is to enlighten people that there is no safe poison,” Schulman concluded. 

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