, Volume 26, Issue 8, pp 1041–1050 | Cite as

Anticoagulant rodenticide exposure and toxicosis in four species of birds of prey in Massachusetts, USA, 2012–2016, in relation to use of rodenticides by pest management professionals

  • Maureen MurrayEmail author


Restrictions on second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) in the United States, which were partially implemented in 2011, prohibit the sale of SGAR products through general consumer outlets to minimize use by non-professional or non-agricultural applicators. This study analyzed liver tissue from four species of birds of prey admitted to a wildlife clinic in Massachusetts, USA, from 2012–2016 for residues of anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs). Ninety-four birds were analyzed; 16 were symptomatic for AR toxicosis, and 78 asymptomatic. Ninety-six percent of all birds tested were positive for SGARs: 100% of those diagnosed with AR toxicosis ante-mortem and/or post-mortem and 95% of subclinically exposed birds. Brodifacoum was found in 95% of all birds. Sixty-six percent of all birds contained residues of two or more SGARs. A significant increase in exposures to multiple SGARs occurred in later years in the study. Pesticide use reports (PURs) filed with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources were reviewed to determine the frequency of use of different ARs by pest management professionals (PMPs) across five years. This study finds that the three SGARs favored by PMPs—bromadiolone, difethialone, brodifacoum—were present in combination in the majority of birds, with increases in multiple exposures driven by increased detections of bromadiolone and difethialone. Continued monitoring of AR residues in nontarget species following full implementation of sales and packaging restrictions in the US is needed in order to elucidate the role of PMP use of SGARs in wildlife exposures and to evaluate the effectiveness of current mitigation measures.


Anticoagulant rodenticides Birds of prey Pesticide use reports Regulatory approach Diagnosis of toxicosis 



Funding for this research was provided by the Ruby Memorial Research Fund, administered by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and supported by numerous generous donors, as well as the Blake-Nuttall Fund, Nuttall Ornithological Club. The author thanks Drs. Robert Poppenga and Adrienne Bautista for assistance with sample analysis, Michael Filigenzi for assistance with sample analysis and manuscript preparation, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources for assistance with access to public pesticide use records, and Jef C. Taylor for valuable input on this project.


This study was partially funded by the Nuttall Ornithological Club (grant number N/A).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that she has no competing interests.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wildlife ClinicCummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts UniversityNorth GraftonUSA

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