Letter to various authorities regarding the use of rodenticide

Due to the Central Park fledglings' recent illness, I was moved to once again to reach out to Parks Department (and now other NYC authorities) on the matter of using rodenticide (specifically the anticoagulant variety) in city parks and to suggest alternatives. No one knows for sure what is causing the fledglings' illnesses but it is as good a time as any to at least try to invoke change to the current policy.

As the policy is now, the use of rodenticide in Washington Square Park is stopped only during the time between the eggs hatching and the babies' fledging. 

I'd heard rumors that WSP had stopped using the rodenticide altogether but from what I understand, that is not the case. The former WSP administrator told me directly not too long ago that Parks Dept. policy is that the rodenticide is reinstated once Hawks fledge. 

The below is a copy of the letter I recently emailed to Adrian Benepe (New York City Parks Commissioner), William Castro (Manhattan Parks Commissioner), Victoria Hervas (Policy Aide to Council Woman Rosie Mendez), Rose Pierre-Louis (Deputy Borough President), Brad Hoylman (Chair, Manhattan Community Board 2), Dominic Pisciotta (Chair, Manhattan Community Board 3), Vikki Barbaro (Chair, Manhattan Community Board 5).

I encourage you to respectfully contact whomever you believe can assist with this cause. I believe it's highly important to be courteous and professional in undertakings like this in order to inspire a collaborative spirit between everyone.

Feel free to cut and paste any or all of my text below if you think it will be of assistance.

As an aside, I did spend about an hour at Washington Square Park today looking for the Hawks but my timing was obviously bad because there was no Hawk to be found. I couldn't stay long in either case.

(Click on the text "More below" to see the letter)


Dear all,

First of all, I want to send my apologies for writing you via this mass email however I do not know the established chains of command in order to contact you regarding this important issue for many.

As you may be aware, a cluster of local Red-tailed Hawk deaths in and around city parks occurred last February and March and was covered extensively in the news, local blogs, and interested websites. The deceased included Lima, Central Park's famed resident Red-tailed Hawk Pale Male's mate.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reported that anticoagulant rat poison (specifically, second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides or SGARs — brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone) were found to be the causes of death for three of the four deceased hawks. Such poisons have been known to kill other Red-tailed Hawks over the years.

This last Saturday it was reported that two of the three Central Park Red-tailed Hawk fledglings (Pale Male's offspring) have fallen ill. It is suspected that rat poisoning may be the cause of at least one of the hawks' illnesses. 

Controlling the rat population and protecting the Red-tailed Hawks (who are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act) at the same time is a tricky and delicate balance as I know you can appreciate.

For example, I understand in the case of Washington Square Park that the Parks Department's rodenticide policy overall is to refrain from using the poison from the time nearby nesting Red-tailed Hawk babies (or eyasses) hatch to the time they fledge or leave the nest. After the eyasses fledge, Parks Department policy is to then place the rodenticide in the parks.

However, fledgling hawks stay in and around their host parks for weeks while they learn how to hunt and eat on their own before they move on to find their own territory. Moreover, the nesting parent hawks stay in their 'claimed' parks year-round instead of migrating. 

As is the case with parent Central Park Red-tailed Hawks Pale Male and new mate Zena, Washington Square Park's resident parent Red-tailed Hawks Bobby and new mate Rosie live in the park year-round.

All one would need to do is look through my Roger_Paw blogPale Male dot com, and Urban Hawks dot com any month of the year to see photos and footage of the hawks hunting and eating prey taken from their homes in NYC parks.

The anticoagulant rat poison, among other poisons, poses a threat to the fledglings and adult Hawks at all times. 

There are alternatives to using anticoagulant rat poison in the parks and other rat poisons that line and share property with the parks and I beseech you to take them into consideration for the protection of hawks, pets, and other animals that may ingest the poison. Hawks are not the only animals to be poisoned by the rodenticide. There are numerous cases of non-target animals and pets dying from ingesting the poison (reference below).

Alternatives to using rodenticide include but are not limited to using or encouraging local businesses and residents to use mint garbage bags (which vermin are repelled by), snap traps, solar trash cans, continued filling in of rat burrows, and limiting the ability to feed birds and squirrels in the parks (since rats have been known to eat and drink from food and water left out for squirrels and pigeons).

I'm one of many NYC residents hoping you will help protect these majestic and valued creatures. Thousands of hawk-lovers (local, national, and international) view my blog each month (and many thousands more follow the Pale Male and Urban Hawks blogs mentioned above) and would surely be behind any alternative solutions or changes in public policy you may choose to enact in lieu of the current policies in place. Please feel free to contact me at this email address and at (redacted from this post) should you wish to connect with me personally.

All the best,
(redacted from this post)

Cc: Adrian Benepe (New York City Parks Commissioner), William Castro (Manhattan Parks Commissioner), Victoria Hervas (Policy Aide to Council Woman Rosie Mendez), Rose Pierre-Louis (Deputy Borough President), Brad Hoylman (Chair, Manhattan Community Board 2), Dominic Pisciotta (Chair, Manhattan Community Board 3), Vikki Barbaro (Chair, Community Board 5).

Below are selected links regarding topics and news reports mentioned above.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service article on the Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds (as signed by Benepe on behalf of NY Park Department):

DEC's necropsy report:

Pip, Washington Square Park fledgling from 2011, hunting in WSP and USP. Her father Bobby is shown teaching Pip how to hunt:
Article discussing secondary rodenticide poisonings and arguments for alternatives:

Documented non-target poisonings in NYC (decades-long problem): 

Centers for Disease Control article on rat control:

Parks Department policy on feeding of birds and squirrels: