Strychnine the Underlying Issues

Strychnine resolutions, some things to consider…

The case for removing registration for Richardson Ground Squirrel (RGS) control with strychnine is pretty solid. The right people were included in the discussion, and research paid for by our local industry/interest groups was commissioned specifically to inform the decision. So where do we go from here? RGS infestations are not going away. Their activity can be extremely damaging to both crops and livestock. On my own place I have seen canola crop wiped out by RGS, and feel every winter their damaging effects trying to navigate holes under the snow setting up the bale grazing fences. Strychnine has been an excellent tool for reducing populations, when used in conjunction with an integrated pest management strategy.

Thinking back to the emergency registration in 2007 to deal with the excessively high levels of RGS (upwards of 40 adults/ha) it is clear that weather and markets play a major role in the population levels. Drought, BSE, and a slow market recovery all contributed to pastures being used hard, and the ineffectiveness of the “strychnine treated oats” (the only strychnine product available at the time) created the perfect storm for population expansion. While it is true that for most of the province drought has not been an issue for some time, and cattle prices have remained strong, and the access to 2% liquid strychnine (which is effective) has resulted in decent control, these conditions will not last forever.

So what are the options? How about a process for short term emergency use of the 2% liquid in localized situations where a intervention is necessary. A way that a producer can gain access for a short term, localized intervention when other IPM strategies are not sufficient? Maybe its okay to use it once in a while, timed ideally, mixed with the right grain, and in areas where there are no identified species at risk?

What are some other control options? Strychnine is actually listed in various international conventions as a product to be controlled and regulated. Many parts of the US and Europe also cannot use Strychnine for ground squirrel control. What methods are they using? Can any of those be safely adopted/adapted to Alberta? (Lets not repeat the Gophenator incident of 2008) .

So what should we be asking for exactly? Funding to research and find solutions? Government investment in projects that find solutions for our unique situation? Special emergency use registration process to deal with perfect storm infestations? The Committee submitted a letter to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada and cc to our Minister of Agriculture in December 2019 with a few of the suggestions from our members.

A Google search for RGS Integrated Pest Management only brings up old government extension documents, nothing from the work of the 2007 commissioned RGS Integrated Pest Management Committee. According to the Re-evaluation Decision this “committee was formed to identify, develop and promote the use of products other than strychnine, and to develop IPM strategies to control RGS.” so it would be assumed that these documents contain the latest and greatest available information.

Government of Alberta – Agdex 684-2 (2012)

Government of Saskatchewan – (old)

Government of Saskatchewan – 2020 Article (nothing new)

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