The state of New York has denied a formal petition to restrict the use of super-toxic rodenticides implicated in the poisonings of children, pets and wildlife—including the family of Pale Male, the famous red-tailed hawk living in New York City’s Central Park. The petition, filed by a coalition of wildlife and conservation groups, documented widespread, unintentional wildlife poisonings, including more than 30 New York wildlife species, from great horned owls and golden eagles to foxes and other mammals.
“The state’s own reports reveal that majestic red-tailed hawks and snowy owls continue to suffer torturous deaths from these dangerous poisons, but the Department of Environmental Conservation has turned a blind eye to these needless deaths in favor of pesticide manufacturers,” said Jonathan Evans, toxics and endangered species campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s a range of safer, cost-effective alternatives available today, and no reason at all to leave the worst of the worst poisons on the market.”
Studies have documented super-toxic rodenticides—called second-generation anticoagulants—in more than 70 percent of wildlife tested. Over a 10-year period, rodenticides caused, on average, more than 160 severe poisonings of pet cats and dogs annually. Each year, up to 10,000 children are accidentally exposed to super-toxic rat poison in their homes, according to data released by the EPA.
“We are deeply disappointed that New York state is hiding behind legal technicalities and refusing to adopt basic protections against the massive poisonings caused by these super-toxic rodenticides,” said Earthjustice Staff Attorney Eve Gartner.
The petition was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, American Bird Conservancy, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Earthjustice, New York City Audubon and Raptors Are the Solution. It referenced numerous poisonings, including the deaths of two red-tailed hawks in 2013 in the New York Botanical Garden and a snowy owl on Governor’s Island in 2014.
“It is very disturbing that the state of New York does not want to protect birds like Pale Male and all of the other wonderful hawks and owls that live in Central Park and throughout the entire state,” said Lisa Owens Viani, director of Raptors Are the Solution.
Safe alternatives to rat poison can be used to address rodent outbreaks in urban and rural areas. Effective measures include rodent-proofing of homes and farms by sealing cracks and crevices and eliminating food sources; providing owl boxes to encourage natural predation; and utilizing traps that don’t involve these highly toxic chemicals. For more information visit SafeRodentControl.org.
“In denying the petition, New York is assenting to the ongoing poisoning of eagles, hawks, owls and other wildlife, as well as pets and children. It is a sad day for public health and wildlife conservation in New York,” said Cynthia Palmer, director of pesticides science and regulation at American Bird Conservancy. “We are disappointed by the New York State General Counsel’s shortsighted decision in favor of ‘the procedural protections afforded’ to pesticide companies.”
Anticoagulant rodenticides interfere with blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding that leads to death. Second-generation anticoagulants—including the compounds brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone and difenacoum—are especially hazardous and persist for a long time in body tissues. These slow-acting poisons are often eaten for several days by rats and mice, causing the chemicals to accumulate in their tissues at many times the lethal dose, poisoning predators that eat the weakened rodents.
Following years of corporate defiance and the resulting legal and procedural delays, incremental steps are finally being taken by EPA and California to limit accidental rodenticide poisonings.
Nationally, the sale of super-toxic poisons to residential consumers is now being phased out, but the rodenticides will still be available for bulk sales to agricultural users and pest-control operators.
California enacted new restrictions on July 1 that limit the use of super-toxic rodenticides to use by licensed professionals.