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Pale Male's Baby Hawks Can't Come Home Until Rat Poison is Removed

By Emily Frost | August 13, 2012 6:39am

UPPER WEST SIDE — Pale Male's two baby hawks have almost fully recovered from a bout of rat poisoning last month, but animal rescuers refuse to send them back to their home in Central Park because the area is still filled with rat poison.

Cathy Horvath, whose volunteer animal rescue organization WINORR-Wildlife In Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation is treating the famous offspring of the red-tailed hawk, said the park is too dangerous for the young birds because of the ongoing use of rodenticides at nearby institutions including the Central Park Boathouse and the American Museum of Natural History, as first reported by DNAinfo.com New York.

"I'm getting a little panicky because I don't know what to do with [the two baby hawks]. The museums and restaurants are using the same poison," said Horvath. "I can't put them back or they'll be dead."

The Parks Department has acknowledged the threat of rodenticide to hawks after several red-tailed hawks died of rat poisoning this past spring. They agreed to stop using rat bait in Central Park, Riverside Park and Theodore Roosevelt Park.

On Wednesday, DNAinfo.com New York found rodent bait boxes around the American Museum of Natural History and the Central Park Boathouse, both of whose grounds are the responsibility of the Parks Department.

The American Museum of Natural History initially used Protecta LP bait boxes, which slowly kill rats with low doses of poison, according to manufacturer Bell Laboratories Inc.'s website. 

Following DNAinfo.com New York's story, the museum switched to Protecta Sidekick bait boxes, also manufactured by Bell Laboratories, which rely on poison bait and snap traps. As many as eight bait boxes were found surrounding the museum. The museum did not reply to requests for comment.

The Central Park Boathouse, an area managed by the Parks Department, is also using Protecta LP bait boxes around its premises. DNAinfo.com found at least five such boxes near the trash area at the boathouse cafe. The boathouse did not reply to request for comment.

According to Bell Labs' website, the Protecta LP traps have toxic bait inside, which "kills anti coagulant-resistant rats and mice yet substantially reduces the risk of secondary poisoning."

The Protecta Sidekick is "both a bait station and a monitoring station," with the toxic bait on a stick, and a snap trap "which captures rats as they enter the station."

Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson said in an email Thursday, "I'm advised that there are snap traps in place, no bait though.

"My understanding is that the bait is food to lure them into the trap — not poison."

But advocates say no matter what kind of the traps they are, any rat poison still poses a threat to hawks.

Horvath said Thursday that although both hawks are now eating on their own, their recovery from their rat poisoning has been slow. The second hawk, who went longer without treatment and was brought to WINORR two weeks ago, is "still acting a little goofy and will just stare at his food sometimes," said Horvath. 

She said she's been receiving frequent calls and messages from people concerned about the welfare of the hawks and angry about the rat poison.

Long-time hawk advocate Lincoln Karim has been urging followers and those concerned to contact the AMNH and the Boathouse, among other institutions.

Hawk fan Ann Feldman wrote on WINORR's Facebook page: " I wrote to both [AMNH and the Metropolitan Museum of Art], not that it does much good. I even reminded one of them (I think AMNH) of how people picketed the fifth avenue building when they took down the nest years ago..and asked them if they would like the same." 

Horvath said hawk lovers and advocates should consider staging a protest outside the institutions again to protect the hawks.

"People are going to have to physically go to these places. We have to do it as a group. There's power in numbers," she said.

"I'm not going to do all this work and send them back into the same environment."