In March, the Massachusetts Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (MassWildlife) reported a bald eagle had died in her nest on the Charles River. She suffered a fatal hemorrhage that was confirmed to be from rodenticide poisoning, resulting from the consumption of smaller animals who had ingested the poison. This case was the first confirmed death of a bald eagle due to rodenticide in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, this is not an unusual phenomenon seen in our birds of prey and other wild predators. Massachusetts wildlife rehabilitators have seen an uptick in patients with lethal and sub-lethal amounts of rodenticide in their systems, especially second generation anticoagulant rodenticides.
Second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) are a type of poison used for rodent control that work by stopping the blood clotting processes, causing lethal hemorrhage. SGARs have been extensively used for rodent control, allowing secondary exposure and poisonings in non-target wildlife species, such as birds of prey that mainly feed on rodents or small birds. Animals who eat the poisoned animals (or the poison itself) may die a similarly painful death, or they may survive, but, having ingested a sub-lethal dose, can still suffer hemorrhaging as well as detriments to their ability to reproduce, thus having broader population impacts. SGARs are prohibited for residential consumer purchase in the Commonwealth, but commercial use is allowed for licensed pesticide companies when hired to deal with rodent problems.
Thankfully, Massachusetts is doing something about this issue. State Representative Jim Hawkins of Attleboro has filed House Docket 4206, An Act relative to pesticides. This legislation was written with input from key stakeholders including the MSPCA, New England Wildlife Center, MassAudubon, The Humane Society of the United States, Raptors are the Solution (RATS), Tufts Wildlife Clinic, Northeast Organic Farming Association, and many others, all coming together with the common goal to reduce SGARs in our environment.
4206 requires pesticide companies to provide customers with written information on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies and the effects of SGARs on wildlife and the environment. Many homeowners have stated after bringing poisoned animals to wildlife rehabilitators, that if they had known the effects of this poison, they would not have allowed it on their property.
The legislation also requires the increased use of IPM strategies in Massachusetts. It would require public institutions of higher education and managers of public land to adopt IPM strategies, which use multiple methods to prevent and address rodent problems. For example, an IPM plan could include sealing building holes and cracks and removing nesting materials from problem areas discourage rodents. It would also require the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources to implement demonstration and education programs to encourage IPM strategies, and for pest companies to share information about these strategies.
4206 also requires digitization of pesticide use forms for better monitoring. Currently, licensed and certified pesticide applicators are required to submit annual reports detailing the quantities of all pesticides used. Pesticide dealers are also required to submit annual sales reports for restricted use products. However these forms are paper, and not regularly monitored, so they can be filled out with little continuity. Digitizing these forms will allow for better tracking of rodenticide use and easier follow up when these records are requested by the public.
You can support this legislation by asking your Massachusetts state legislators to co-sponsor HD. 4206. You can find out who represents you at www.wheredoivotema.com. You can learn more about this bill here. Stay up to speed on our efforts by joining our Animal Action Team.