OT--Florida--Poison May be Killing Hawks, Other Raptors

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Poison may be killing hawks, other raptors

Mar 11, 2000 - 01:00 AM By SUSAN M. GREEN

Wildlife experts are becoming concerned about a rash of hawks and other birds of prey showing signs of poisoning in the southeastern part of Hillsborough County. Connie Newell of Ruskin said a friend of her husband, Mike, found a hawk motionless but breathing Monday afternoon in a back yard at 811 Ninth St. N.E.

``It was just real lethargic,'' she said. ``It was just lying on its side, but it was alive. We thought at first someone had shot it.''

The Newells found no sign of injury, however. They decided to take the bird to Care Animal Hospital in Brandon, where they had taken injured wildlife before.

Once there, Connie Newell said, the clinic staff told her they had been getting a lot of birds of prey that appeared to be suffering from poisoning, possibly by pesticides.

Netty Dotson, a veterinary technician at Care, said the animal hospital has seen a rash of possibly poisoned birds, with at least 10 being brought in since January.

Gary Morse of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said his agency had not heard of a rash of poisoned birds of prey. But he said 10 poisoned birds in two months is an unusually high number, and commission staff members will investigate.

All died despite treatment, usually shortly after their arrival, Dotson said. The longest any lived was three days. Most of the birds were hawks, but Dotson also remembered two owls.

Necropsy results indicate some kind of pesticide is involved, she said.

``We still have not pinpointed what it could be,'' Dotson said, though she noted one theory was that the birds may be eating poisoned rats. She referred other questions to veterinarian Clarence Dunning, who could not be reached.

Until now, the animal hospital has not asked people dropping off the birds to give the location where they were found, so no clear pattern has been detected. Care Animal Hospital is revising its admission forms to include that information, Dotson said.

Connie Newell said the site where the hawk was found Monday is near an orange grove, tomato field and sod farm, as well as homes.

Resee Collins, director of the Florida Audubon Society's Center for Birds of Prey in Maitland, said Friday she recently received an inquiry from Care Animal Hospital in response to information the center sent out about pesticide poisoning in the Lake Apopka area.

Last year, about 1,000 birds died as a result of eating pesticide-laced fish after old farmland was flooded as part of a habitat restoration project. Only nine rescued birds recovered, Collins said.

At the same time, the Apopka area was overrun by mice and rats - possibly refugees from those same flooded fields. In the fall, the state offered thousands of homeowners anticoagulant bait that kills rodents through internal bleeding. But the pesticide also can be harmful to raptors, and the center began to take in poisoned predator birds, Collins said.

She said people should carefully follow label instructions for all chemical applications. Often the amounts recommended reflect what is needed to kill unwanted pests without harming other animals, she said.

Collins was not aware of any other areas reporting unusual numbers of poisoned raptors.

Susan M. Green covers the Brandon environment and can be reached at (813) 657-4529.


-- (Dee360Degree@aol.com), March 11, 2000


Hawk's been poisoned?!

I did NOT poison Hawk. =oP

-- cin (cinlooo@aol.com), March 11, 2000.

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