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Secondary poisoning from bromethalin toxicants for moles - should you be concerned?

June 29, 2020
mole damage

Got Nature? Blog: Recently during an online program (video), Purdue wildlife extension specialist Brian MacGowan received a question about the risk of using toxicants for controlling moles in lawns. Specifically, the question was if animals (pets or wild animals) ate the moles that consumed the bromethalin "worms" or "grubs" would that harm them. He decided to do some digging (no pun intended) for more information so people can make informed decisions regarding their use.

What is bromethalin?
From the Purdue University Animal Disease and Diagnostic Laboratory:
“Bromethalin was developed and released in 1985 to combat a world-wide problem of rodent resistance to warfarin-like anticoagulant rodenticides. Bromethalin is not an anticoagulant but is a highly potent rodenticide that provides a lethal dose to rodents in a single feeding. Death occurs within 24 to 36 hours after ingestion. It is a pale, odorless, crystalline solid compound in the diphenylamine family. Its mechanism of action is to uncouple oxidativephosphorylation in the mitochondria of the central nervous system. This leads to a decreased production of ATP. Low levels of ATP inhibit the activity of the Na/K ATPase and lead to a subsequent buildup of cerebral spinal fluid and vacuolization of myelin. The increased CSF results in high intracranial pressure, causing damage to nerve axons, inhibiting neural transmission and leading to paralysis, convulsions and death. Signs of a sub-lethal dose include hind limb ataxia, depression, extensor rigidity, opisthotonus, lateral recumbency and vomiting. High doses may bring about severe muscle fasiculations, hind limb hyper-reflexia, seizures, hyperthennia, depression and death.”

From the Merk Veterinary Manual:
“Bromethalin, a nonanticoagulant, single-dose rodenticide, is a neurotoxin available as bars (blocks), pellets, seed, and worm. Mole baits are sold as worm containing 0.025% bromethalin, whereas rat and mouse baits contain 0.01% bromethalin. Bromethalin and its main metabolite desmobromethalin are strong uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation. This results in intra-myelin fluid accumulation, leading to long nerve demyelination and intra-myelin cerebral edema. The net result is cerebral and spinal edema and increased CSF pressure, leading to neurologic dysfunction. In toxicity trials, the oral toxic dose of bromethalin when used as part of bait appears to be much lower than the dose administered as a technical grade agent. For example, in dogs, an average lethal dose of technical grade bromethalin is reported to be 4.7 mg/kg but 2.38 mg/kg in bait. Young dogs (

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Resources
Pesticides and personal safety (pdf), Purdue Pesticide Program
Pesticides and wildlife (pdf), Purdue Pesticide Program
Moles, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Adjuvants and the Power of the Spray Droplet: Improving the Performance of Pesticide Applications, The Education Store
Purdue Extension – FNR: Ask An Expert, Video, Purdue Extension –  Forestry and Natural Resources YouTube channel

Brian MacGowan, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

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