Use of liquid strychnine will be phased out over three years
By Diego Flammini
At least one Prairie group plans to challenge a federal decision that will phase out the use of a key ingredient in controlling Richardson’s ground squirrels (gophers).
On March 4, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) released its re-evaluation decision over the use of 2 per cent liquid strychnine. The agency began its review in 2018.
The gradual phase out of strychnine would take place over three years from the March 4 decision.
Health Canada determined “that the environmental risks associated with the use of strychnine and its associated end-use product to control Richardson’s ground squirrels were not shown to be acceptable when this product is used according to the label directions and required mitigation measures,” the PMRA’s decision says.
Groups or individuals who disagree with the decision have 60 days to challenge the ruling.
The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) hopes to be part of a formal challenge before the end of the month.
The organization plans to meet with the provincial minister of agriculture as any official objection must come from a provincial government.
Without the use strychnine, gopher populations could increase significantly and cause issues for producers, said Ray Orb, president of SARM.
“In dry years, the populations seem to explode. Gophers can do a lot of damage to a crop, especially when it’s young,” he told Farms.com. “We’ve seen cases where these rodents have wiped out entire crop fields in a matter of days, so farmers need this tool available when necessary.”
Other products to control gophers and similar animals are available but could be hazardous to other animals, Orb said.
“You have to use an above-ground bait station, but it exposes (the bait) to other animals,” he said. “You don’t want to have a cow or other livestock eat it.”
With the liquid strychnine, producers can coat oats or other grains with it to bait the rodents.
Other rural organizations are watching the PMRA ruling as well.
The Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) is waiting to see how Premier Kenney’s government reacts Health Canada’s decision.
The organization is “connecting with the Government of Alberta to determine what our next steps might be,” Tasha Blumenthal, director of external relations and advocacy with RMA, told Farms.com in an email.