Rat poison affecting eagles

Bald eagles can ingest rodenticides by eating poisoned rodents. Credit: George Gentry/USFWS

Indications of rat poison appeared in the majority of eagles that researchers recently tested, raising concern about its effects on the species. In a study published in PLOS ONE, a team of researchers tested 116 bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and 17 golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) for anticoagulant rodenticides. They detected the chemicals in 82% of those eagles, which ingest them when they eat poisoned rodents. Rat poison was the cause of death in only 4% of those eagles, the team said, but the chemicals’ presence is still a concern. “The precise health impacts of nonlethal exposure to rat poison are currently unclear,” Mark Ruder, the lead author of the paper told New Scientist, but the finding that the issue is so widespread remains “alarming.”

Read the study in PLoS One and read an article on the paper in Smithsonian Magazine.