Letter from A Place Called Hope: Why is it OK to poison birds?
Published in News on May 26, 2023
By Christine Cummings
[Editor’s note: Christine Cummings, the president of A Place Called Hope, a rescue and rehab facility in Killingworth that specializes in saving raptors, is on the frontlines of efforts to save hawks, owls, eagles and other birds suffering from toxic exposure after eating rodents poisoned with second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides. Along with Friends of Animals and other animal advocates, Cummings has called on state legislators to ban the use of SGARs. She fears her impassioned but science-based pleas are falling on deaf ears in the Connecticut General Assembly. Here, with her permission, we share her impassioned pleas to save Connecticut’s raptors from this “second Silent Spring.”]
I just needed to share the results on the most recent bald eagle from Bloomfield admitted to A Place Called Hope. This eagle was in poor body condition, tested positive in-house for lead poisoning, so we submitted blood work which revealed that the eagle was also suffering from mercury poisoning. While treating this bird, we noticed his blood was watery and did not coagulate, so we treated him for anticoagulants as a precaution. He seemed to rally from the chelation therapy only to slip backwards. When he died, he had blood in his trachea and his droppings, something we see with rodenticide exposure. We had him necropsied and his lead and mercury levels had significantly responded to treatment but his test for anticoagulants came back positive for Brodifacoum. SGARS again. This is the second bald eagle in two months who has succumbed to this insidious poison, which we are trying to ban. The crisis is real: To date we have completed 55 tests on deceased raptors; 46 tested positive for one or more of the ingredients of SGARS.
The way Senate Bill 962 currently stands, it will do nothing to protect our wildlife, domesticated pets, or our children. Making SGARS Registered Use Products, as a current, watered-down amendment proposes, won’t stop this unnecessary onslaught to unintentional victims from this overused, and very profitable, poison that is being applied to mitigate most rodent situations in our state. Commercial pest-extermination firms are mostly to blame, regardless of the loophole for the public to purchase. (That consumer use of such a toxic, indiscriminate poison is no longer getting closed in this new verbiage.) The professionals are still spreading misinformation to their clients that these methods are safe, while APCH has spent over $10,000 to date on scientific evidence proving different. Each specimen we have tested is, or was, a life. Our evidence, which we will continue to gather, represents more than test results to us. Each and every one of these victims is dead because of this poor choice to mismanage rodents. How many more lives will convince you?
Raptors are not the only animals who suffer. And despite being told that the raptor population is on the rise, how does that have any leverage here? What does that have to do with the overuse and application of this toxic classification of rodenticides? As a raptor expert, I can tell you that while some species are stable, or on the “rise,” others are not so lucky. Raptors in Connecticut include 24 different species of predatory birds of prey, and the science here says many have entered the “special concern” or “threatened” categories. While osprey, who eat mostly fish, or eagles, are growing in numbers in our region, the same is not true for most avian predators who rely on a diet of small mammals. Despite this fact, eagles are being affected by SGARS as proven in our scientific testing. How many more of our federally protected national emblem have died untested? And even though eagles are thankfully on the comeback after nearly being wiped out by an earlier poison, DDT, how does that make it ok to poison them with this new threat? I don’t understand.
What else can we do to get you to support an amendment on SB 962 to put the proper verbiage back in? Ban the use and the sale of SGARS statewide and or at least impose a two-year moratorium while more studies are conducted. How can anything else effectively protect our wildlife and environment?
I am exhausted and overwhelmed by these constant cases while I am being told to just keep educating, spend money on more tests, and prepare for the next legislative session. This is outrageous to me while more lives are needlessly lost, and I am the one cradling these beautiful birds as they die in my lap while the pest management professionals are profiting from their poisons.
Please help me understand.
A Place Called Hope, Inc.