Alternatives to the nastiest rat poisons
Monday Scat Mystery 09052022

A Poisoned Hawk's Odyssey

Banded dead Cooper's Hawk. JWIMG_7966
This appeared with the main story on rat poisons in The Record:

   This is the brief story of rat poison and a strikingly beautiful raptor with a long, barred tail. 

    At Cape May Point State Park last Oct. 11, rain began falling around 3 p.m., and bird-bander Bob Studholme placed a small aluminum loop on one last raptor’s left leg before calling it quits. A young male Cooper’s hawk headed south got Band No. 1134-02332.

  Fast forward to late June. Peter Romano of Cresskill heard a commotion in his yard and found blue jays and robins pecking a hawk to death. When Romano disposed of the body, he noticed a leg band and contacted Don Torino and me.

    While Don obtained more information about the hawk from its leg band, I retrieved the bird and drove to the state wildlife veterinarian in western New Jersey. 

   Dr. Nicole Lewis performed a necropsy (an animal autopsy). Initially, she found that the hawk had indeed been pecked to death. Further testing showed that its system contained lethal amounts of two second-generation rat poisons – Brodifacoum and Bromadiolone. The blue jays and robins had merely finished what the poisons had started.

   In some ways, this dead Cooper’s hawk is an exception. Because it was banded, a concerned citizen brought it to Don’s and my attention. Few dead raptors get tested for rat poison because most wildlife deaths go unreported. (When a hawk or fox dies in the woods or wetlands, no one even knows it died, let alone investigates what killed it.) 

   Since December 2020, I’ve asked Dr. Lewis to examine three dead great horned owls, three Cooper’s hawks, and a screech owl – all from northern Bergen County. Six of the seven died from rat poison.

   I hope No. 1134-02332 didn’t die for nothing. It’s time we protect our raptors.

                                                                                         Jim Wright

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