Earlier this month, my wife and I tried out a job as caretakers of a river front lodge in the heart of the Oregon Coast Range. It sounded idyllic, but on closer examination we found that the whole place was overrun by rats and mice. They had made themselves at home in the “trophy lodge’s” basement, attic, and furnace room and even throughout the heat ducting system (which—judging by the smell—they must have considered their own private out house).
Had the lodge owner even hinted at the “rodent situation” (as he later put it) ahead of time, we would never have moved our cats and dog in without first asking if there had been any poisons used around there. Well, it turns out there had—someone put fresh d-CON in all the heating vents, and who knows where else around the “estate.”
Among the sinister side effects of d-CON is that it kills slowly and stays in the victim’s body, allowing them to wander far from the source before a predator or scavenger consumes them, spreading the poison to an entire food chain. Needless to say, we gathered up our companion animals and got the hell out of there.
But about a week after we got back home, our worst fears were realized. One of our adopted cats, Caine, a gray tabby in the prime of his life with a black belt in the art of mousing, started showing the tell-tale symptoms of d-CON poisoning. He refused to eat or drink and slept round the clock. His lethargy grew more pronounced until he eventually tuned everyone else out, as though preparing to pass on. If we hadn’t rushed him to the vet, where he received IV fluids and an emergency injection of vitamin K to counter-act the lethal anti-coagulant agent in the poison, he would have died like so many other wild and domestic animals (including people) before him.
The problem is so extensive that the manufacturers of d-CON recently agreed to stop production of this particular rodenticide. Though it’s now banned in California, stockpiles still exist in stores throughout the rest of the country. And this insidious gold-standard—this household name in “pest control”—has surely found its way to all corners of the globe by now and will keep doing its damage for years to come. How many cats, bobcats and cougars, dogs, coyotes, mink, ermine, opossum, raccoons, owls, hawks and eagles will suffer a drawn-out death from this pervasive poison before the sale of d-CON is completely discontinued?
In a way, Caine was one of the lucky few. Most rodent-eaters don’t have companion humans who care about them enough to nurse them back to health.