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Early Tests Show Rat Poison Killed Papa Hawk

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — Early tests on the body of the red-tailed hawk that died recently in Riverside Park suggest he was killed by rat poison, a Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman said.

Final results on a necropsy of the papa hawk's body won't be available for a few weeks, the spokesman said. But based on a "tentative diagnosis," rat poison is suspected as the cause of the feathered father's death, which left his female mate to care for two newborns herself.

It's too early to say whether the hawk, who delighted wildlife lovers with majestic displays of soaring and hunting, died because he ate a rat poisoned by the Parks Department.

Workers at the DEC lab haven't identified which toxic chemical slayed the bird. That information could provide a clue about whether the hawk died from poison left out by the Parks Department near the raptor family's nest at the West 79th Street Boat Basin.

Riverside Park's male hawk feasting on a rodent last fall.
Riverside Park's male hawk feasting on a rodent last fall.
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Photo By Nabil Esphahani

News that the Parks Department had dosed the area with rat poison while the hawk family was preparing to welcome newborns angered hawk watchers, because the hawks regularly feast on the plentiful supply of rats in the park.

But the hawks hunt outside the park as well, and the male hawk could have eaten a rat poisoned by, say, a nearby building superintendent or business owner.

Hawk watchers say the widowed mother hawk is carrying on, feeding herself and her babies with food left out by the Parks Department.