BOSTON (AP) — Animal rights groups are pressing Massachusetts lawmakers to limit the use of highly toxic rat poison following the death of a bald eagle blamed on the poison.
The bald eagle that died in March along the Charles River was poisoned after ingesting a toxic substance meant to kill vermin. State wildlife officials said the eagle succumbed to poisoning from a “second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide.” The second-generation anticoagulants prevent blood from clotting normally, resulting in a fatal hemorrhage. They are more toxic than first-generation poisons. It’s the first time that such a fatality in a bald eagle has been reported in Massachusetts, officials said, although mortalities in bald eagles due to the poison have occurred in other states.
A proposal filed on behalf of several animal rights groups would restrict use of the poison in Massachusetts. It would also require the state to monitor its use and mandate pest control companies educate consumers about it. “These are poisons and they should be regulated better,” Kara Holmquist, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, told The Salem News. The use of the poison is leading to the deaths of other animals that weren’t the intended targets, including many protected animals, she said.
Under federal law, the chemicals cannot be sold in stores and their sale has been restricted to commercial pest control workers since 2011. Animal rights activists said those rules aren’t tough enough and the chemicals are still available, including online. Bald eagles and other animals can become sickened when they eat poisoned mice or rats or poisoned bait directly. Opponents say banning poisons meant to control rodent populations could lead to the spread of diseases, particularly in urban areas.
The poisoning comes as bald eagles are making a comeback in Massachusetts and across the country. There are currently more than 80 pairs of bald eagles nesting in Massachusetts, and more than 300,000 of the birds are currently soaring over the lower 48 states, according to government scientists. Bald eagles reached an all-time low of 417 known nesting pairs in the lower 48 states in 1963.
After decades of protection, including banning the pesticide DDT and placing the eagle on the endangered species list in more than 40 states, the bald eagle population has continued to grow. The bald eagle was removed from the list of threatened or endangered species in 2007.