KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP/WCBD) — A task force of wildlife agents, university researchers and leaders in pest control is studying how the poison used to control rats on a South Carolina island is also killing the bobcats that eat them for food.
The South Carolina SGA Rodenticide Task Force said its goal is to balance the needs of businesses and people on Kiawah Island with protected wildlife.
The chemical used in rat poison prevents the rodents’ blood from clotting. But that same chemical has been found in dead bobcats, who eat the rats.
A recently-deceased Kiawah bobcat was sent off for testing and SGA chemicals were found in the cat’s system.
Between 30-35 bobcats roam Kiawah Island at any given time. Last month, News 2 reported that population was down to 10 or less.
Local leaders, including Kiawah Mayor Craig Weaver, requested a temporary ban on the use of SGA’s on the island.
The request was sent to Clemson University’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR), a department which oversees the sale and use of pesticides in South Carolina, but that request was denied.
Clemson’s DPR responded by saying in part: “Because of voluntary compliance exhibited by the pest control industry, coupled with our ongoing educational efforts, your requested regulatory action prohibiting the use of SGA rodenticides on the island is premature at this time.”
That launched a campaign to save the bobcats on the island.
Property and business owners can take a pledge and become a Bobcat Guardian.
“We have a program, a bobcat pledge program in which we are asking property owners and businesses to voluntarily pledge not to use these rodenticide chemicals which is just getting started,” said Mayor Craig Weaver.
The campaign seeks to educate people about the reported dangers of SGA’s. Several licensed pesticide companies who cater to the island have also worked to stop the use of the chemicals.
State pesticide expert, Jim Wright, with the South Carolina Pest Control Association (SCSPA) says banning SGA’s on Kiawah may not have the desired results and would take at least a couple of years to take effect.
“The reality is, mandates, arent always the answer,” said Wright. “In my experience is that if you can come up with a way for the best brightest minds to tackle a problem to work together to voluntarily resolve that, that’s where your real benefit comes from.”
This is why the SCSPA, Clemson’s DPR, and Kiawah are working together to come up with an alternative method of rodent control that will enact no harm to the bobcat population.
Bobcats are native to South Carolina and offer many benefits to the ecosystem, such as controlling the deer population.