On the Wild Side: Sharing the Desert with Raptors

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk

Updated June 29, 2017

By David LeRoy

I live in the Rio Verde Foothills and we are blessed to be surrounded by the very best wildlife that the Sonoran Desert has to offer. As a matter of fact, Arizona is home to and visited by more species of raptors that any other state in the United States. While many full time residents have learned a little something about our various species of eagles, hawks, falcons and owls, there are still many more who do not appreciate how complex and delicate the raptor’s life cycle and food chain actually is. It is for those individuals that I hope to share this critical information.

The Subject is RODENT POISON.

One of the primary day-to-day and night-to-night, 24/7 food sources for all raptors is rodents. Large or small, they eat them all. I am not sure how many folks understand that just about all rat or rodent poisons contain killing agents like warfarin that prevents blood from clotting. The poison does not kill the affected rat or rodent immediately. The rodent eats the poison but is killed slowly over a day or so.

During this time the rat or rodent will become confused and wander out in the open where our eagles, hawks, falcons and owls will pick them up to either feed upon themselves or to take back to their nests to feed their young. Then the raptor will eventually die as well, due to internal bleeding. The raptor’s feathers are hollow and filled with blood, and the poison bursts the blood vessels which causes them to hemorrhage out of their feathers as they slowly bleed to death. The raptor will also begin go blind, because of the retinal hemorrhages caused by the anticoagulant agent in the poison.

Folks need to read the labels before putting the rodent poison out for random wildlife consumption. Did you know that these products also present a significant health threat to all other wildlife, including humans and domestic dogs and cats? Secondary poisoning has been documented in such top predators as mountain lions and bobcats.

"Cloudy Evening" by Larry Lynch

“Cloudy Evening” by Larry Lynch

The bottom-line is this: There is no safe rat poison! Do not take the word of pest control operators – do your own research by looking up the material data sheets for the active ingredient in any pesticide or rodenticide that a pest control company recommends! Commercial rodenticides contain an anti-coagulant rodenticide called brodifacoum (broh-dif’-a-coom) that causes secondary poisoning when raptors consume rodents that have been poisoned. In studies in both California and New York, brodifacoum was found to account for 80 percent of the secondary poisonings by rodenticides, even though it accounted for only 20 percent of sales. Brodifacoum is found in the following commonly used products: D-con, Talon, and Havoc.

It is extremely dangerous to birds through secondary exposure. It can harm pets as well if they consume a poisoned rodent. It is marketed as a “single feed” rodenticide, but the rodent takes several days to die and during that time it can continue feeding on the poison, so that is extremely toxic if eaten by a predator. The poison causes thirst, which causes the rodent to go outdoors in search of water, and this is when it is likely to get preyed on by raptors or cats. Brodifacoum and other commonly used rodenticides are currently under review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) due to concerns about harmful effects on wildlife and the accidental poisonings of pets and children.

There is NO safe rat poison that can be used around pets. Rodenticides are designed to kill. Treat any statement that products can be “safely” used with caution.

If you truly do value our unique Arizona wildlife, and in particular our eagles, hawks, falcons and owls, then please take the time to educate yourself about these products and find alternative methods to address your particular rodent issues.

About Wild At Heart

Wild At Heart is an all-volunteer organization which is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of Arizona’s native wildlife.  At Wild At Heart we:  Rescue, rehabilitate, and release birds of prey which have been injured or orphaned. Relocate displaced burrowing owls. Manage species recovery programs.  Manage habitat enhancement projects.  Provide educational presentations.  Each year, Wild At Heart rescues and cares for approximately 400 owls, hawks, and falcons, and some years, as many as 600 raptors have been cared for in the facility.  Every single dollar donated goes towards the rescue, rehabilitation, care and release of our amazing Arizona Birds of Prey. Wild At Heart is an all-volunteer non-profit 501(c) 3 organization.  Support for Wild At Heart comes from generous members of the community who are concerned about our ever-decreasing wildlife habitats.

Please send your tax-deductible donations to “Wild At Heart” at the address below. For additional information regarding how you can support Wild At Heart please go to: http://www.wildatheartowls.org/

For Additional Information or To Volunteer

Mail: Wild At Heart, 31840 North 45th Street, Cave Creek, AZ 85331

Phone: (480) 595-5047

Web: http://wildatheartowls.org  Visit Website

Related Articles

Audubon Magazine  – Poisons Used to Kill Rodents Have Safer Alternatives   Article

Huffington Post – Rat Poisons Threaten Lives of Pets, Kids and Wildlife, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/07/rat-poison-wildlife-pets-children_n_1747367.html Article


Author: William LeRoy

William Leroy has volunteered at Wild At Heart for many years. He has participated in many raptor rescues. His column, "On the Wildside," which he writes on behalf of Wild At Heart, has been published in The Peak for more than a decade.

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