U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Committee on Gene Drive Research in Non-Human Organisms: Recommendations for Responsible Conduct; Board on Life Sciences; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2016 Jul 28.

Cover of Gene Drives on the Horizon

Gene Drives on the Horizon: Advancing Science, Navigating Uncertainty, and Aligning Research with Public Values.

Show details

Appendix DRodent Control Strategies

A comprehensive list of rodent control strategies that are in use or in development are listed in Table D-1. As noted in Chapter 3 of this report, many of the strategies in use are labor-intensive, expensive, and have limited effectiveness.

TABLE D-1. Some Rodent Control Strategies in Use or in Development.


Some Rodent Control Strategies in Use or in Development.


First-generation compounds, such as warfarin, must be administered in high concentrations over multiple doses, and thus have now been replaced by second-generation compounds, such as the odorless and tasteless toxicant Brodifucoum (Thomas and Taylor, 2002; Mensching and Volmer, 2008). If the terrain affects the ability to successfully apply the chemicals, then rodents in these areas may not be treated. Mechanical methods such as trapping are not considered feasible but can be used in conjunction with other methods.


Mechanical traps are considered by some to be more humane than rodenticides. Collectively, these mechanical methods cannot discriminate between target and non-target organisms (Lorvelec and Pascal, 2005), and so similar issues are raised to the use of chemical toxicants.

Biological Controls

Biological controls of invasive rodents include predators, parasites, or other disease-causing agents that act by recapitulating the factors that would normally limit the population. One of the considerations in using this method is whether the introduction of such an agent would itself become invasive given its placement in an environment that is not its own. Several unsuccessful examples of the deployment of this method can be found in the literature, such as the introduction of rabbits into Australia in the late 1800s (Garden, 2005), means to control their subsequent substantive, and unexpected, population growth (Saunders et al., 2010), or the introduction of the cane toad to control agricultural pests of Australian sugar cane (Weber, 2012). The cost of this type of intervention will vary depending upon the organism of interest and the biological control agent being introduced.

Genetic Engineering Strategies in Development

One method being explored takes advantage of the process of RNA interference (RNAi), in which double-stranded RNAs that target endogenous RNAs essential for the life of the rodent would be introduced to the rodent in an analogous fashion to that observed currently for agricultural pests (Xue et al., 2012). Technical issues associated with this technique include delivery of double-stranded RNAs, their inherent stability and thus persistence of inhibition, the concentration required to effect species eradication, mechanism of spread, and potential biosafety risks. Proof-of-concept using RNAi as a toxicant has been demonstrated, however, with sea lampreys (Heath et al., 2014), and delivery of small interfering RNAs has been shown to be possible in mice (He et al., 2013). Another approach is autoimmune infertility, in which a virus is used to express proteins that elicit an immune response targeting the fertilization process, thus preventing formation of the zygote (Chambers et al., 1999). This technique would achieve population reduction, but challenges still remain with respect to administration of the virus at the appropriate life cycle time of the rodent, the number of rodents that would be required to be infected (Jacob et al., 2008), and the need to ensure that infected rodents mate with one another as opposed to untreated rodents.

Summary of Current Technology for Rodent Control (adapted from NCSU website)1

Another line of research involves a genetic approach in which rodents could carry transgenes that, upon mating to the invasive population, do not produce any progeny (e.g., lethality) or cause the female offspring to develop as males (sex-reversal) (McLaren and Burgoyne, 1983; Bax and Thresher, 2009; Gemmell et al., 2013). This method, however, will likely require multiple releases of transgenic males and may not be scalable (Campbell et al., 2015). Finally, in some instances it may not be possible to eradicate an invasive rodent population, due to the high cost involved, the location and topography of the land area under investigation, the presence of humans, or risks posed to the ecosystem.


  • Bax NJ, Thresher RE. Ecological, behavioral, and genetic factors influencing the recombinant control of invasive pests. Ecol. Appl. 2009;19:873–888. [PubMed: 19544731]
  • Biotechnology Australia. Control Through Birth. 2001. [April 28, 2016]. (The Biotechnology On-line Secon-dary School Resource). http://web3​.narooma-h​.schools.nsw.edu.au​/resources/BioTechOnline​/BiotechnologyOnlineCD​/environment/PestSpecies​/EuropeanRabbit​/ControlThroughBirth​/e_ControlThruBirth.htm.
  • Campbell KJ, Beek J, Eason CT, Glen AS, Godwin J, Gould F, Holmes ND, Howald GR, Madden FM, Ponder JB, Threadgill DW, Wegmann SA, Baxter GS. The next generation of rodent eradications: Innovative technologies and tools to improve species specificity and increase their feasibility on islands. Biol. Conserv. 2015;185:47–58.
  • Chambers LK, Lawson MA, Hinds LA. Biological control of rodents—the case for fertility control using immunocontraception. Singleton GR, Hinds LA, Leirs H, Zhang Z, editors. Canberra, Australia: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research; 1999. pp. 215–242. (Ecologically-based Rodent Management).
  • Garden DS. Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific: An Environmental History (Nature and Human Societies). Stoll MR, editor. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO; 2005.
  • Gemmell NJ, Jalilzadeh A, Didham RK, Soboleva T, Tompkins DM. The Trojan female technique: A novel, effective and humane approach for pest population control. Proc. Biol. Sci. 2013;280(1773):25–49. [PMC free article: PMC3826240] [PubMed: 24174117]
  • He C, Yin L, Tang C, Yin C. Multifunctional polymeric nanoparticles for oral delivery of TNF-a siRNA to macrophages. Biomaterials. 2013;34:2843–2854. [PubMed: 23347838]
  • Heath G, Childs D, Docker MF, McCauley DW, Whyard S. RNA interference technology to control pest sea lampreys—a proof-of-concept. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(2):e88387. [PMC free article: PMC3914985] [PubMed: 24505485]
  • Hygnstrom SE, Virchow DR. Historical Materials from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Paper 1512. 1992. [March 17, 2016]. (G92-1106 Controlling Rats). http:​//digitalcommons​.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent​.cgi?article=2508&context​=extensionhist.
  • Jacob J, Singleton GR, Hinds LA. Fertility control of rodent pests. Wildlife Res. 2008;35(6):487–493.
  • Lorvelec O, Pascal M. French attempts to eradicate nonindigenous mammals and their consequences for native biota. Biol. Invasions. 2005;7(1):135–140.
  • McLaren A, Burgoyne PS. Daughterless X Sxr/Y Sxr mice. Genet. Res. 1983;42:345–349. [PubMed: 6667857]
  • Meerburg BG, Brom FWA, Kijlstra A. The ethics of rodent control. Pest Manag. Sci. 2008;64(12):1205–1211. [PubMed: 18642329]
  • Mensching D, Volmer P. Rodenticides. 5th ed. Morgan RV, editor. St Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. pp. 1191–1196. (Handbook of Small Animal Practice).
  • Saunders G, Cooke B, McColl K, Shine R, Peacock T. Modern approaches for the biological control of vertebrate pests: An Australian perspective. Biol. Control. 2010;52(3):288–295.
  • Thomas B, Taylor R. Turning the Tide: The Eradication of Invasive Species. In: Veit C, Clount M, editors. A history of ground-based rodent eradication techniques developed in New Zealand, 1959-1993. Cambridge, UK: IUCN; 2002. [April 21, 2016]. pp. 301–310. (Occasional Paper of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No 27). http://www​.issg.org/pdf​/publications/turning_the_tide.pdf.
  • Weber K. Cane Toads and Other Rogue Species. New York: Public Affairs; 2010.
  • Williams T. Audubon Magazine. January-February, 2013. 2013. [March 17, 2016]. (Poisons used to kill rodents have safer alternatives). http://www​.audubonmagazine​.org/articles/conservation​/poisons-used-kill-rodents-have-safer-alternatives?page=3.
  • Witmer G, Jojola S. What's up with house mice? A review. Timm RM, O'Brien JM, editors. Davis, CA: University of California, Davis; 2006. pp. 124–130. (Proceedings of the 22nd Vertebrate Pest Conference).
  • Xue XY, Mao YB, Tao XY, Huang YP, Chen XY. New approaches to agricultural insect pest control based on RNA interference. Adv. Insect Physiol. 2012;42:73–117.


Copyright 2016 by the National Academies of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Bookshelf ID: NBK379279


  • PubReader
  • Print View
  • Cite this Page
  • PDF version of this title (6.8M)

Related information

  • PMC
    PubMed Central citations
  • PubMed
    Links to PubMed

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...