Story at a glance
- Researchers from the University of Georgia examined dead eagles from 2014 to 2018 across the country.
- Of the 133 eagles autopsied, the study found 109, or 82 percent, had detectable levels of rat poison in their system.
- Twelve had died as a result of the compounds.
Results from a new study suggest the majority of eagles in the U.S. are exposed to rat poison.
Researchers from the University of Georgia examined 303 dead eagles in the U.S. from 2014 to 2018, which included the testing of 133 eagles for anticoagulant rodenticide compounds, also known as rat poison.
Of the 133 eagles autopsied, the study found 109, or 82 percent, had detectable levels of rat poison in their system and 12 had died as a result of the compounds. Researchers found 96 bald eagles and 13 golden eagles were exposed to the rat poison, while 11 bald eagles and 1 golden eagle were killed by the poison, according to the study published in the journal PLOS.
Six different rat poison compounds were found in the birds of prey, with brodifacoum and bromadiolone most frequently detected.
“Although the exact pathways of exposure remain unclear, eagles are likely exposed through their predatory and scavenging activities,” Mark Ruder, the study’s author, told CNN.
Rat poison is used widely in the U.S. to control rodent populations in urban and suburban settings, and researchers say the poison can last a long time in a host’s body.
The threat to the birds comes as the bald eagle population has quadrupled since 2009, according to a report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
After becoming nearly extinct in the 1960s due to hunting and DDT poisoning, the population has been able to flourish over the decades due to federal protections given to the country’s national symbol.
READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA