In an effort to prevent fatal injuries to wildlife that have ingested rodenticide and cannot be treated, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida stands with dozens of agencies and partners to advocate for the banning of rodenticide in Florida.
The Conservancy’s von Arx Wildlife Hospital has seen bald eagles, burrowing owls, great horned owls, barn owls, Virginia opossums, and grey foxes suffer and die from anticoagulant rodenticide toxicosis.
“The suffering we see in animals that have ingested anticoagulant rodenticides is significant,” said Joanna Fitzgerald, director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. “Especially devastating is the fact we are in breeding season and many of these birds of prey are taking food items to their young and the babies are ingesting the poisons. Watching an animal bleed out is tragic, especially because these deaths are preventable and the damage could be minimized.”
Harmful rodenticides are directly affecting the predator/prey balance by destroying nature’s own rodent-control system, which are the raptors. The loss of non-target, predatory species is negatively impacting the balance needed for healthy ecosystems.
According to Fitzgerald, animal welfare needs to be the priority, not corporate profits that are resulting in the indiscriminate killing of wildlife especially when alternate rodent control options exist that are less harmful.
The quest for implementing a safer alternative that will curb rodents in public spaces, yet not impact raptors residually, is the goal.
“The presence of rodenticides in predators such as owls, hawks, and eagles, reveals the potential consequences these poisons have on animals higher in the food chain, not just the species for which they were intended. The variety of species we have admitted to the wildlife hospital suffering the effects of rodenticide poisoning is alarming.”
Act now and write to the EPA to ban rodenticides and bring safer solutions through the Safety Harbor Owls website. Our native wildlife cycle depends on it.
The deadline for comments is February 13.
The partners are also starting a petition to ban the use of anticoagulant rodenticides in Florida here.
Additional local organizations which support banning the use of anticoagulant rodenticides due to their risks to owls, bald eagles, other raptors, children and pets include:
- Birds in Helping Hands
- Florida Suncoast Sierra Club
- Friends of Birds of Prey at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve
- Pinellas Community Foundation
- Tampa Bay Raptor Rescue
Previously published instances of the severity of the impacts of the poison on raptors:
The great horned owl was brought to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital by a woman after she found the owl in her yard. When she noticed the owl she immediately realized it was in distress; the owl was unresponsive making it easy for her to contain and transport to the wildlife hospital.
A physical exam was performed upon admission to the hospital. Wildlife rehab staff noted that while the owl was alert, it was underweight, its mouth was very pale, and overall, the owl was very weak.
The owl was placed on oxygen in an animal intensive care unit to warm up and rest. Hospital staff suspected the owl might be suffering from anticoagulant rodenticide exposure so electrolytes and vitamin K were administered subcutaneously.
After 36 hours of intensive care, the great horned owl was still weak but was exhibiting more natural behaviors and was more active. Staff moved the owl to a larger space in the bird room for further rehab and supportive care.
Anticoagulant rodenticides are compounds that inhibit normal blood clotting resulting in excessive bleeding and death. Anticoagulant rodenticides are a very common form of rodent control. The poison bait kills rodents but can also cause mortality in non-target species of mammals and birds either through primary exposure (eat the poison bait) or secondary exposure (eat a poisoned animal).
Rodent control is a difficult issue with no quick and easy solutions. Preventative measures, such as keeping pet food or bird seed in sealed containers, and exclusion are long term solutions to rodent issues that don’t compromise environmental health.
Reason for Concern
Final diagnosis from necropsies and toxicology tests performed on two bald eagles admitted to the wildlife hospital in November 2016 showed the eagles died from anticoagulant rodenticide exposure. Anticoagulant rodenticides are compounds that inhibit normal blood clotting resulting in excessive bleeding and death.
Anticoagulant rodenticides are used as a form of rodent control in various setting, including agricultural, residential and commercial areas. The poison bait kills rodents but can also cause mortality in non-target species of mammals and birds either through primary exposure (eat the poison bait) or secondary exposure (eat a poisoned animal). The presence of rodenticides in predators such as birds of prey reveals the potential consequences these poisons have on animal higher in the food chain, not just the species for which they were intended.