Red Tail Hawk Succumbs to Secondary Rat Poisoning in Madison Square Park

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Once again, another beautiful city raptor is dead from secondary rat poisoning. The dead body of a red- tailed hawk that lived in Madison Square Park was sent to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) for necropsy. The state is still investigating the case. What we know so far is that there were partially reabsorbed clots of blood indicating a prior episode(s) of poisoning as well as the massive bleed-out that led to this bird’s painful death. The concerned citizen, who found the bird, also informed the state that there was an over-deployment of 19 rat bait boxes throughout this tiny, two block park. The NYS DEC is also investigating this alleged rodenticide over-application.

Prevention of rodent infestation is better than cure. Once a rodent infestation is established, it can be very difficult to control, so, it’s best to stop the rats from getting onto your property in the first place. Such measures will minimize the risk of an infestation and reduce the numbers of rodents on your property.

The following precautions for rodents should be taken wherever possible:

1. Clean up food remains, rubbish and debris close to buildings so that rodents don’t have a ready source of food, and keep refuse sealed in rodent-proof containers.

2. Pest proof buildings to prevent rodents from getting in. Cover openings with 6 mm wire mesh to prevent rodents from entering buildings.

3. Fit metal “kick plates” at the bottom of doors to prevent gnawing.

4. Place metal guards around pipes and wires entering the building.

5. Trim trees and overhanging vegetation, and remove ground cover near foundations.

6. Predators, such as cats and raptors, help to keep rodent numbers down.

7. If a rat infestation does occur, either live capture traps or spring traps should be considered as the next option. Where spring traps are used, they should be placed under cover or protected to prevent non-target animals and birds from being caught. Rodents prefer to run along the edges of open ground, so placing traps against walls or other hard surfaces works best.

8. Traps may not be sufficient to deal with significant infestations. If the use of rodenticides is deemed necessary, a series of initial steps must be taken. Carefully read the product label and other industry and government guidance, and make sure that you follow all the instructions, as required by law. Use baits only for as long as it is necessary to achieve satisfactory control and normally no longer than 35 days in any treatment. Remove all bait at the end of the treatment. This may help limit the buildup of resistance amongst the rat population, therefore making any future control easier.

Rats in the subway

Rats in the subway

Rodenticides are poisons and are also toxic to young children, pets, and other wildlife, as we have seen by the poisoning of two young red-tailed hawks in Central Park and others around NYC in the past year. Failure to adequately protect baits from access by animals and humans (particularly children), may lead to serious poisoning incidents. So, it is best to avoid rodenticide use where possible and utilize other methods of control, without endangering children, pets and other wildlife.

For more information on controlling rodents go to

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

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