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New study finds rat poison present in 82% of U.S. eagles

Friday, April 9th 2021, 2:36 pm - Researchers aren't sure if exposure to the rat poison has long-term effects for living eagles.

A new study has found that 82 per cent of American eagles likey have rat poison in their systems, prompting experts to urge the public to refrain from using the chemicals to deter rodents.

Eagle populations used to be in decline in the U.S. due to hunting and the widespread use of DDT, a chemical once commonly used in insecticides. Both Canada and the U.S. banned DDT in 1972.

Thanks to new government regulations, populations rebounded, quadrupling since 2009, CNN reports.

But the findings of the new paper, published in the journal PLOS One, suggest certain environmental factors continue to threaten eagle species.

Researchers tested 133 eagles carcasses between 2014 and 2018 and found rat poison present in the majority. They believe approximately 4 per cent of the birds involved in the study died because of the chemicals, which can cause blood clots.

While it's unclear how the rat poison got into their systems, it's suspected they were exposed while scavenging.

Researchers say people should avoid using rat poison because it can harm numerous species.

"Humans need to understand that when those compounds get into the environment, they cause horrible damage to many species, including ... the bald eagle," Scott Edwards, professor of zoology and a director of graduate studies at Harvard University, who was not involved in the study, told CNN.

Scientists say more research is needed to determine if the chemicals have negative side effects on living eagles with rat poison in their systems.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Mia Gordon.

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