NYU rat poison threat to Bobby and Rosie, WSP Hawks - March 1st, 2013

I wanted to fill you in on yet another threat to Bobby, Rosie, any potential offspring they may have this spring, and to any animal or raptor who may eat an infected rodent. Details below.

I will likely not publish any specific response I may receive in response to my last email below (perhaps out of a sense of professional courtesy). Instead, I will update you with any general (and important) updates.

February 11th, 2013:

From: Roger Paw 
Sent: Monday, February 11, 2013 2:23 PM

Subject: NYU rat poison threat to Bobby and Rosie, WSP Hawks

Good afternoon,

A fellow Hawk-watcher recently informed me that she saw rat poison bait traps outside the entrance steps to all the NYU town houses along Washington Square Park (the housing along Washington Square North between University Place and 5th Avenue to be precise).

These traps typically house the anticoagulant poisons (such as Bromadiolone or Brodifacoum) that would be dangerous/lethal to Bobby and Rosie should they ingest a poisoned rat. 

Rats often run back and forth between the park and neighboring buildings/land. I have seen them do this myself (usually at night) so there is a great risk that Bobby or Rosie may eat such poisoned rats.

Washington Square Park used to use the same poisons but thankfully they switched to snap traps out of the public's concern for the Red-tailed Hawks' safety. See: http://rogerpaw.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-rat-bait-boxes-have-been-removed.html

Would you please look into replacing the rodenticide traps with covered snap traps that would still help control the rat population but would protect the Hawks?

Please do keep me posted as I know my readers and other well-wishers of the Hawks would be devastated should Bobby and Rosie become poisoned.

(name redacted)

February 12th, 2013:

On Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 8:16 AM, John H Beckman <john.beckman@nyu.edu>wrote:
Let me look into this, please

On Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 3:57 PM, Roger Paw wrote:

Thanks, John. Apparently, according to a friend's observations, these types of traps are also located at Schwartz Plaza (between Bobst Library where the nest is and Shimkin Hall). 

It stands to reason that rats from the park may be venturing to the Plaza to eat garbage that often overflows from the uncovered trash cans there.

(name redacted)

February 26th, 2013:

From: Roger Paw
Date: Tue, Feb 26, 2013 at 9:27 AM
Subject: Re: NYU rat poison threat to Bobby and Rosie, WSP Hawks

Hi, John. I'm following up on this exchange from a couple of weeks ago. The rat bait traps are still in place last time I saw (a few days ago). I'd appreciate any kind of update you may have as Rosie is likely pregnant now (she and Bobby have been mating frequently for the spring time brood) and any ingested poison puts her, her offspring, and Bobby in mortal danger.

-(name redacted)

March 1st, 2013:

From: Roger Paw 
Date: Fri, Mar 1, 2013 at 1:50 PM
Subject: Fwd: NYU rat poison threat to Bobby and Rosie, WSP Hawks

March 1st, 2013

Dear John Beckman,

I am following up on my emails to you from February 12th and 26th in regards to the rat poison placed on NYU grounds along the northern border of Washington Square Park (specifically, each townhouse along Washington Square North between University Place and 5th Avenue and also at NYU's Schwartz Plaza).

The rodenticide used in these traps on NYU grounds, Difethialone, is the very poison that was found in the bodies of all four NYC Red-tailed Hawks that were tested by NY State Department of Environmental Conservation's Wildlife Health Unit (WHU) last spring. I have included the link to the DEC's article and necropsy here: 

Quote from the above article:  "Difethialone was present in all birds and was the sole poison found in one of the hawks. In the other three birds, difethialone was accompanied by bromadiolone and brodifacoum rodenticides; diphacinone was also detected in one bird. The presence of anticoagulant rodenticide combined with spontaneous hemorrhaging indicates that rodenticide poisoning was the cause of death in three hawks. It could not be determined as the sole cause of death in the fourth hawk due to the reproductive related injuries it sustained."

The labels on the NYU traps I and other concerned people saw along Washington Square Park read, in part:

"Product Name: First Strike
EPA Reg. # 7173-258
Active Ingredient: Difethialone"

Since I have not heard from you since the 12th, I am also reaching out to NYC Audubon (Cc-ed here) in the hopes they can join in offering NYU recommendations for alternatives to these traps and poison.

As our colleagues from NYC Audubon can attest, there are inexpensive methodologies that can be used to control the vermin population and protect the Hawks at the same time.

Article from NYC Audubon - "Protecting Raptors from Accidental Poisoning": http://www.nycaudubon.org/issues-of-concern/protecting-raptors

NYC Audubon's suggested alternatives: http://www.nycaudubon.org/images/protecting%20raptors.pdf

Snap traps are a viable alternative to this rodenticide. Washington Square Park manager Ralph Musolino switched from using rodenticide to snap traps in the park last fall after learning that Rosie and Bobby are year-round residents of the park and in reaction to the public's concern for the Hawks and any other animal that may ingest poisoned vermin.


I suggest the NYC Audubon recommendation that rodenticide be placed on property only during September through February be changed to a wholesale ban in our case since Rosie and Bobby live in Washington Square Park year-round.

I know that I and my blog readers (and anyone else who not only enjoys the Hawks but want to protect them) would be appreciative of any protective policy changes NYU could make in regards to these traps.

Thank you,
(name redacted) of Roger_Paw blog

Cc: John Sexton (President, NYU), Philip Lentz (Director for Public Affairs, NYU), Rosalind Romero-Rivera (Public Affairs Office Manager, NYU), Glenn Phillips (Executive Director, NYC Audubon), Susan Elbin (Director of Conservation and Science, NYC Audubon), John Rowden (Associate Director for Citizen Science and Outreach, NYC Audubon)