Category Archives: Advocacy

Bald Eagle flying

When Pest Control Poisons Wildlife: Why It Happens and How to Help

(Disclaimer: the post below includes a photo of a dead bald eagle)

Update 8/16/2021: A second rodenticide-related eagle death has now been documented by the state.

This week, Massachusetts passed a sad benchmark–the first documented case of a bald eagle death in the state from second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide (SGAR) poisoning.  

Or, in clearer terms: rat poison. 

Anticoagulant rodenticides kill rodents by preventing blood from clotting normally. But these poisons can have unintended victims when wildlife, like birds of prey, ingest them or eat prey that has consumed the bait. 

Second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) can be especially problematic since they don’t kill rodents immediately. Poisoned rodents can still live for a few days and consume more poisoned bait during that time, and the delay means they can ingest enough poison to kill a much larger animal. 

Photo: James B. Condon

Aren’t These Poisons Regulated?

Second-generation anticoagulants have been banned by the EPA from the consumer market, but licensed exterminators are still allowed to deploy them. Other rodenticides, called first-generation anticoagulant rodenticides and non-anticoagulant rodenticides, are still approved for residential consumer use if enclosed within a bait station. 

While this was the first confirmed case of an eagle death in the state as a result of SGARs, the issue of birds of prey becoming the unintended victims of these poisons is a growing problem. Nearly every raptor species is vulnerable to rodenticide poisoning. For example, one recent study found that 100% of tested red-tailed hawks at Tufts Wildlife Clinic had been exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides. Secondary poisoning has also been documented in species like foxes, bobcats, and coyotes.

What’s the Solution?

With rat populations on the rise, pest control measures continue to be necessary. But many poison-free options for preventing rodent problems exist. In addition to non-chemical traps, these include exclusion methods, like sealing up access points to buildings, and sanitation methods, like securing trash bins to reduce food sources.  

If the situation necessitates hiring a pest control company, choosing one that uses Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can also make a big impact in reducing widespread pesticide use. IPM relies on a series of pest management evaluations, and its strategies can include trapping, sealing up entry holes in foundations, walls, and roofs, and removing or trimming vegetation that obscures the ground.  

We also need laws to regulate the pesticides that do continue to be used. In California, legislation has passed prohibiting the use of SGARs until state agencies can reevaluate what long-term restrictions are needed to avoid impacts to nontarget wildlife.  

Here in Massachusetts, An Act relative to pesticides would better regulate the use of SGARs, in turn reducing their impacts on birds of prey and other wildlife. The bill would: 

  • Increase use of IPM strategies in Massachusetts 
  • Educate consumers about the benefits of IPM and impacts of SGARs 
  • Require digitization of pesticide use forms, making them more accessible and searchable 

You Can Help Stop Wildlife from Being Poisoned

Ask your state legislators to support An Act relative to pesticides today! By improving our approaches to pest management, we can reduce the need for rodenticides at their source and help our wildlife thrive. 

Bald Eagle Flying © David Morris
Bald Eagle © David Morris

The “MVP” of Climate Adaptation

Climate change impacts all of us. Along with sea level rise, we’re seeing extreme weather, inland and coastal flooding, and severe heat at a greater frequency and intensity. To adapt to climate change means to prepare for impacts like these, and one way that Mass Audubon is acting is through protecting and restoring nature. That’s because natural areas like forests and wetlands help us withstand these impacts in addition to storing carbon, helping us mitigate climate change simultaneously!

Mass Audubon partners with a program that prioritizes nature-based solutions to climate change— Massachusetts’ Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program. The MVP Program provides support for cities and towns in the Commonwealth to identify climate hazards like extreme weather, assess local vulnerabilities to these hazards, and develop action plans to increase resilience to climate change.

Two Steps Closer to Resilience

In addition to encouraging the use of nature-based solutions, the MVP Program’s core principles include using best available climate change science, leading a robust and equitable community engagement process, and enacting climate solutions that benefit the entire community—especially vulnerable populations most affected by climate change. Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Planning

First, municipalities participating in the MVP Program need to lead a community-driven planning process to understand climate hazards and vulnerabilities and to identify priority adaptation actions. The city or town works with a state-certified technical assistance provider (like Mass Audubon) and organizes a community workshop with a range of stakeholders that can speak to infrastructural, societal, and environmental needs in light of climate change.

Once a municipality completes the MVP Planning Grant process and submits a summary of findings, they become certified as an MVP Community, eligible to apply for Action Grants to achieve their climate resilience goals.

Step 2: Action

MVP Communities apply for Action Grants to implement on-the-ground projects that address the priorities identified during the planning stage. The potential for these projects is vast—they can include updating stormwater infrastructure given increases in precipitation, removing dams to restore stream flow, conserving a wetland to protect against flooding, or planting trees in an environmental justice community.

Getting an Action Grant can be competitive, but applications that prioritize nature-based solutions to climate change—which provide co-benefits to communities like improved air quality—are in a better position to receive the grant.

The Power of Partnerships

The MVP Program is a great example of partnership between state and local government to address the climate crisis, and MVP communities are working together to make their projects more impactful.

Thanks to MVP grants, four Greater Boston awardees are each focusing on extreme heat from climate change—an impact that was felt strongly this past summer. Since the four projects are similar in geographic area and project goal, the teams have been meeting regularly to learn from each other’s efforts and coordinate community engagement.

Multiple communities are also encouraged to apply for funding together, and Mass Audubon is a partner in one successful example of this. In Southeastern Massachusetts, the communities of Freetown, Lakeville, Middleborough, and Rochester are working together to create a nature-based watershed management and climate action plan in an area of interconnected lands and ponds known as the Assawompset Ponds Complex.

Get Involved

89% of the entire Commonwealth, or 312 municipalities, now participate in the MVP Program. You can help bring participation to 100% and encourage the use of nature-based solutions in your own city or town!

Whether or not your community is already involved in the MVP Program, contact your municipal officials to encourage using this opportunity to protect and restore nature. Even more, all Action Grant projects require public involvement, so your input as a stakeholder is highly valued.

Solving climate change is up to all of us, collectively. Visit our website for more ideas on how you can start acting for resilient, sustainable communities.

– Paige Dolci, Climate Resilience Coordinator