Tag 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

Paving the Way Towards an Equitable, Net-Zero Future

Photo © Rishi Jain.

Last week the Massachusetts House passed our priority climate bill, An Act creating a 2050 roadmap to a clean and thriving Commonwealth (H.4912). The bill includes critical language highlighting the role of natural and working lands in reaching net zero emissions, as well as protections for frontline communities. This action brings us one step closer to making an equitable carbon neutral future a reality. Here’s why: 

We Don’t Have to Wait for Technology 

Climate solutions already exist all around us. Take a look outside your window, and you’ll probably see a critical tool that’ll help ensure we can reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

That’s right. Nature is an indispensable ally in our collective climate fight. Not only does nature make us more resilient to climate impacts like heat, floods, and droughts, it also can help us prevent some of the worst impacts altogether.  

Forests, farms, and wetlands, for example, soak up rampant carbon dioxide like a sponge – removing excess greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change from our atmosphere. This removal process, along with limiting the burning of fossil fuels, is a climate mitigation strategy: it addresses the crisis at its roots by reducing the net amount of emissions that remain in the atmosphere.  

Climate Mitigation and a Net Zero Carbon Future Go Hand in Hand 

Natural climate solutions are crucial mitigation tools for reaching our 2050 net zero goal. It’s up to us to make sure that we urgently utilize them to tackle climate change.  

As amended, the 2050 Roadmap bill makes natural climate solutions a priority for achieving carbon neutrality statewide. It requires the state to measure the carbon stored by and released from natural and working lands across Massachusetts, and create a plan for increasing those absorption levels while reducing carbon emissions. 

Safeguarding Our Future for People and Wildlife Alike 

The amended 2050 Roadmap bill also formalizes a definition of environmental justice, which will help ensure equitable access to future environmental decision making. Environmental injustices and climate impacts are disproportionately harming low-income communities and communities of color, and the bill establishes long overdue protections to address these disparities.  

We Have a Part to Play in our Collective Climate Fight 

Mass Audubon is dedicated to boldly acting on climate change so that we can protect both our communities and our wildlife. As one of the largest conservation nonprofits in New England, we see the value of nature firsthand every day, especially in solving the climate crisis.  

We’ve been advocating for the 2050 Roadmap bill all session, and we’re excited to see it making progress. Right now, we’re thanking legislators that supported it, and you can, too. Next, the bill will head to a conference committee where we’ll continue pushing for its passage. 

We don’t have time to wait. Our future is one we must work to protect right now – and nature can help us pave the way towards equitable carbon neutrality.