Rat Poison Traps at Natural History Museum May Have Sickened Hawks

By Emily Frost on August 2, 2012 2:28pm 

UPPER WEST SIDE — Weeks after Pale Male's red-tailed hawk fledglings were sickened by rat poison,  bait boxes have been found at the spot one of them was rescued.

At least eight black plastic rat bait boxes labeled "Rodent Bait Station DO NOT TOUCH" were spotted in the grass and tucked behind bushes at the American Museum of Natural History on Wednesday.

The boxes bear the label Protecta LP, from the pest control company Bell Labs, and are designed to lure a rodent inside and let them ingest poison designed to eventually kill them, according to descriptions online. 

Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson denied Wednesday that the rat boxes were placed there by the Parks Department, which is responsible for maintaining the grounds around the Natural History Museum.

"We also have not placed any rat poison in Theodore Roosevelt Park (surrounding the Natural History Museum) this year as there has not been a rat problem at this location," Abramson said in an email Wednesday.

"Check with the museum."

A spokeswoman for the museum did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Wednesday, but said last week that "the parks department handles the area outside of the museum."

Hawk advocates claim the bait boxes are a health hazard for hawks because the poisoned rats often live long enough to be eaten.

They believe whoever is responsible for putting the bait boxes out is likely responsible for sickening Pale Male's babies, which were put on emergency detox after being found last month.

Several hawks have died from rat poisoning in Riverside Park and Central Park already this year, including Pale Male's former mate Lima, the State Department of Conservation reported.

The deaths left raptor lovers angry about the use of rat poison in areas surrounding the birds' habitat.

Hawk watchers became alarmed July 22 when one of Pale Male's hawk babies was spotted on a tree near the Museum of Natural History exibiting symptoms of poisoning. He was lethargic and did not leave his perch to fly or feed, advocates said.

That hawk was retrieved from the perch with the help of advocate Lincoln Karim, the Parks Department and animal rehabilitator Cathy Horvath, and was taken to Long Island for blood tests that revealed poison in his bloodstream, Horvath said.

The hawk's sibling was recovered from a perch near the Metropolitan Museum of Art July 26, and was also taken in for testing. The tests also found traces of poison, Horvath said.

"The second has not recovered nearly as well as its sibling yet."  Horvath, who runs the non-profit Wildlife In Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation (WINORR) with husband Bobby Horvath, wrote on the organization's Facebook page.

"It still appears lethargic at times, eyes closed during the day and head tucked under its wings."

Karim said he's approached the Upper West Side museum and asked officials to remove the boxes. He said he was promised the boxes would be removed.

But hawk advocate Jean Shum wrote in an email, "The boxes are all still intact around the museum... The AMNH are giving us the run around."

Karim wrote on his blog, Palemale.com, which is devoted to photographing and chronicling the famous hawk and his family, "The Museum of Natural History has shown no remorse for what happened to Pale Male and Zena's baby."

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