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Rat poison used at Tent City worries experts at Carolina Raptor Center

Updated: Mar. 26, 2021 at 5:43 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - You know the saying you are what you eat? That applies to birds too, and not always in a good way.

“At some point they will be here at the Raptor Center,” Executive Director Jim Warren said.

“We are the largest Raptor rehabilitation facility in United States. So think all things birds that are injured, eagles, owls, hawks. We have a hospital that takes these birds in,” Warren said.

The Raptor Center has about 1,000 patients a year but something in the news recently made Warren worried they could see even more.

More than 200 people were forced to leave Tent City near Uptown Charlotte when Mecklenburg County health inspectors found a rat infestation.

“We were just concerned about the method that they were going to use, if they went in with live catch or with snap traps,” Warren said.

The reason is because rats and mice are easy food for raptors, and how they’re killed at Tent City can have a huge impact on the birds.

Scott Weir is an assistant professor at Queen’s University and studies the impact of chemicals in the environment and specifically he’s studied the impact rat poison, or rodenticide, can have in raptors after they eat the rats.

“Most rodenticides that people use are anti-coag, meaning it disrupts the ability of your blood to coagulate properly,” Weir said.

“That means we do have birds in the area that have been exposed to rodenticide consistently at a level that’s high enough to be potentially causing adverse effects on those birds. So it is happening and it is potentially a serious problem,” Weir said.

WBTV wanted to find out exactly how the rats were killed.

After filing a records request with the county, we found out there were two different companies doing the extermination and were largely bait traps, but the proposals didn’t include what type of rodenticide was being used.

After some follow-up questions we learned that at least one company was using a highly toxic anti-coagulant rodenticide, one of the kinds Weir had mentioned.

With the volume of rats at the site, it could cause major problems for raptors.

“That’s like a smorgasbord for any animals that are going to be feeding on it and not just Raptors,” Weir said.

WBTV asked the county if that was considered before signing off on the extermination plans. The Health Director said that will Environmental has been monitoring the rodent abatement, use of rodenticides falls under the jurisdiction of the EPA and NC Department of Agriculture.

“Best thing is, just don’t use rat poison,” Warren told WBTV.

Warren showed WBTV various traps any homeowner could use to deal with a rat problem. He’s encouraging people to use those instead of rodenticide to help protect any raptors that could end up at his facility.

“People should care about their own health and the health of their family. What happens to these Raptors at some point in our future is going to happen to us,” Warren said.

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