Skip to content
Home » Tompkins County » EXCLUSIVE: Rodent poison is putting NY’s birds of prey at risk (video)

EXCLUSIVE: Rodent poison is putting NY’s birds of prey at risk (video)

  • / Updated:
  • Megan Hatch 

Birds of prey are in danger in New York.

A staggering 68% of the state’s red tail hawks have rodent poison in their system, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The poison is called anticoagulant rodenticide (AR). The study signals that AR poisoning is widespread among New York’s raptor population.

Rodent poisoning is putting our birds of prey in danger (video)

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

More: Slithering through the FLX: Experts say you shouldn’t fear this ‘laid back’ snake species (video)

Rodent posion exposure prevelent among NY’s red tailed hawks

The red-tailed hawk is one of the most recognizable birds of prey species in North America.

Hawks can be seen nesting on roadside poles or soaring above fields and woods.

The bird’s diet consists mainly of small mammals, like mice, rats and squirrels, as well as small birds and reptiles.

Cynthia Hopf-Dennis is a clinical professor at the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Hospital at Cornell. The red tailed hawk was the perfect study subject, she explained, because the birds are very common in New York.

Hopf-Dennis and her team’s ultimate goal was to find a reliable test for AR toxin exposure.

“We see birds with suspected rodenticide exposure on apparently a pretty regular basis,” she explained. “We don’t have a good test, so as doctors, we always want to solve the puzzle and know what we can treat to target our therapy and make animals better, faster.”

They weren’t able to find a diagnostic test that worked. However, the study found that AR toxins are a serious threat to birds across the state.

More: Avian flu now affecting raptor population in the Finger Lakes

Bird poisoning is a result of human activity, expert says

AR is a popular method of killing rodents. Many pest control companies use it.

“The rodenticide exposure is because of us. A lot of what we treat at our wildlife hospital is because of human-caused injury or toxin,” said Hopf-Dennis.

Until there is a acceptable alternative model for pest control, these toxins will continue to affect raptor populations in New York, the study concluded.

“It’s easy for me to say stop using all these things that are killing our raptors. But you do have to have an alternative,” concluded Hopf-Dennis. “I think the first step is letting everybody know that it’s still a problem.”

More: Cornell graduate student invents CO2 filter that could help combat climate change (video)