Raptors like this Red-tailed Hawk are magnificent birds. But a raptor dying from secondary rodenticide poisoning is a pitiful sight, bleeding profusely and too sick to hunt or even fly. Thanks to persistent advocacy by ABC and partners, fewer birds will now suffer this grisly fate.

That's because, in 2014, years of pressure from ABC and other groups resulted in an agreement to pull the most toxic of d-CON rodenticides from retail shelves.

The victory occurred in June 2014, after d-CON's parent company, Reckitt Benckiser, settled legal cases against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state of California. ABC and partners, represented by the environmental law firm Earthjustice, joined EPA in the cancellation proceedings against Reckitt.

Reckitt's Reckoning

Reckitt had long refused to take their deadly rodenticides off the market—even when their products were shown to poison birds, pets, and sometimes even children.

Our pesticides expert Cynthia Palmer called the agreement to pull the product from retail shelves “a huge victory for eagles, owls, hawks, and other wildlife — and for children and pets as well.

“While the fight isn't over until all of these poisons are off the market, this decision keeps the worst of the worst products from residential consumers.”

Beyond the Lethal Dose

These particular rodenticides, called “second-generation anticoagulants,” ceased to be manufactured for home use at the end of 2014, and distribution to retailers was terminated on March 31, 2015.

Anticoagulant rodenticides work by interfering with the blood clotting process. Animals that ingest the poisons begin to bleed uncontrollably and die a slow death.

Second-generation anticoagulants, including brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, and difenacoum, are particularly toxic. These slow-acting poisons are often eaten over several days by rats and mice, allowing the chemicals to accumulate in their tissues at many times the lethal dose.

Poisonous Prey

Dying rodents then become poisonous prey for predators like Golden Eagles, scavengers, and pets. Studies have documented second-generation anticoagulants in more than 70 percent of wildlife tested, including Bald Eagles, mountain lions, and endangered San Joaquin kit foxes.

These rodenticides also cause more than 160 severe poisonings of pets each year. According to data from EPA, up to 10,000 children are accidentally exposed to rat poison in their homes annually.

Pesticides: A Persistent Threat

Unfortunately, the d-CON story is not an unusual one. Many commonly used pesticides are later found to be toxic to birds and other wildlife.

One example is that of Swainson's Hawk, which took a population nosedive in the 1990s due to agricultural pesticide use in South America.

“Birds are no match for the insidious chemicals used in many pesticide products,” said Palmer. “Rodenticides kill Golden Eagles, screech-owls and other raptors, while weed-killers and insecticides commonly used in homes and gardens can be lethal to songbirds."

Pesticides used in agricultural operations have the potential to affect birds like the Bobolink.

Continuing the d-CON Fight

Under the agreement with EPA, the d-CON rat poisons will still be available for bulk purchase from agricultural supply stores — and ABC will continue to push for additional restrictions on these dangerous substances. We will serve as a watchdog for the other rodenticides as well, to gauge whether the new tamper-resistant-bait-station-requirements are sufficient to protect birds and other wildlife.

We're optimistic that we will eventually prevail, as we have with many other chemicals over the past 20 years.