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MD passes by-law limiting strychnine sales for Richardson ground squirrel control

LAWRENCE GLEASON, GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
An MD of Willow Creek by-law with new limits on the sale of two per cent strychnine for Richardson ground squirrel control was passed at the Oct. 17 council meeting.
The by-law was recommended by the Agricultural Service Board following the notice from Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency the use of strychnine for pest management may be banned.
Pesticides are regularly reevaluated by the agency to see if they meet current health and environmental safety standards.
There was a 90-day public consultation period ending Sept. 27. Submitting concerns on the proposed ban were the province, the provincial body for Agricultural Service Boards in Alberta, and a number of rural Alberta municipalities.
Health Canada’s position is strychnine for Richardson ground squirrel control does not meet standards for environmental protection as it poses a risk to birds and mammals that consume the bait directly, species that prey on gophers and scavenger animals.
That new position is based on field studies in southern Saskatchewan.
According to Health Canada, a 2008-‘9 Study cited by the agency used two per cent strychnine following the product label recommendations in 32 plots ranging in size from point 2.2 to 3.5 hectares.
That study found eight horned larks, 33 deer mice, three chestnut-collard longspurs, two common grackles, one pocket mouse, two western meadowlarks, two vesper sparrows, and one northern harrier were found dead on the surface of the fields.
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency concluded from this test that it suggested more nontarget deaths were occurring on larger plots.
Burrowing owls are a species at risk, were in the vicinity of that study area, and were noted to have a diet of 26 per cent ground squirrels through May to July and can consume ground squirrels killed by strychnine.
Highlights of the by-law include selling only to producers trained in strychnine use who provide an Alberta farm fuel benefit number or own or lease a minimum of 40 acres and are actively engaged in agricultural production.
The number of cases of 2% strychnine sold will be based on one case of 24 bottles per quarter section of land owned or leased to a maximum two cases per day.

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