Group claims rat poison
is killing Golden Gate Park wildlife
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
March 16, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A San Francisco wildlife rehabilitation
group plans to release a red-shouldered hawk into the wild this
morning following a six-week recovery from what they believe is
the secondhand ingestion of rat poison.
The hawk was lucky to survive, according to Jamie Ray with the
Rescued Orphan Mammal Program
(ROMP), who claims that two hawks and a fox have been found dead
near rodent bait boxes in Golden Gate Park's botanical garden.
Ray also said that a third hawk was found dead this week across
the street from the Japanese Tea Garden.
But Rose Dennis, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Recreation
and Park Department, disputes these reports.
"We had an incident six months ago, which we suspected that
poison might have played a role," Dennis said. "The
raptor survived, and I don't know of any other cases."
Both agree that the birds of prey are not feeding on the bait
traps. Ray said that rats eat the poison but it takes around five
days to work. When hawks eat the rats, however, the poison may
still take effect, a process called secondary ingestion.
Ray said that poison began affecting wildlife in December 2005
when it was first placed around a plant nursery in the park. The
parks department has removed and replaced the poison intermittently
since, and ROMP believes that practice coincides with the sickness
of the animals.
Dennis defends the use of poison because of another problem affecting
the city: rats.
"We, like everybody else in San Francisco, are dealing with
rodent problems, whether they want to admit it or not," Dennis
said. "San Francisco recreation and park is no exception."
She said that rodents are especially bothersome near commercial
areas like Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Street, where restaurant trash
makes for a rodent feast. Rats can then retreat into the nearby
"We have a duty to the people and to other species to do
what we can to mitigate the reproduction and spread of the disease
spread by rats," Dennis said.
The Recreation and Park Department uses the poison because it
is so mild, said Dennis, who points to the amount of time it takes
for a rat to die of the anti-coagulant.
"We're using what's considered a best practice in the industry,"
she added. "If there's a better idea, we're all ears."
Ray suggests writing the department, as well as the state Department
of Fish and Game and the federal Environmental Protection Agency
to lobby government to ban the poison.
ROMP worked to save the hawk, which will be released today at
11:30 a.m. in front of Golden Gate Park's botanical garden, through
the services of another bird rescue organization in San Rafael
The bird underwent several poison treatment processes before
being cleared for release.
The parks department thanked both organizations for their efforts.
"We're indebted to Miss Ray for saving this hawk,"
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