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Collateral damage: Anticoagulant rodenticides pose threats to California condors

August 18, 2022

Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) are widespread environmental contaminants that pose risks to scavenging birds because they routinely occur within their prey and can cause secondary poisoning. However, little is known about AR exposure in one of the rarest avian scavengers in the world, the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus). We assessed AR exposure in California condors and surrogate turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) to gauge potential hazard to a proposed future condor flock by determining how application rate and environmental factors influence exposure. Additionally, we examined whether ARs might be correlated with prolonged blood clotting time and potential mortality in condors. Only second-generation ARs (SGARs) were detected, and exposure was detected in all condor flocks. Liver AR residues were detected in 42% of the condors (27 of 65) and 93% of the turkey vultures (66 of 71). Although concentrations were generally low (<10 ng/g ww), 48% of the California condors and 64% of the turkey vultures exposed to ARs exceeded the 5% probability of exhibiting signs of toxicosis (>20 ng/g ww), and 10% and 13% exceeded the 20% probability of exhibiting signs toxicosis (>80 ng/g ww). There was evidence of prolonged blood clotting time in 16% of the free-flying condors. For condors, there was a relationship between the interaction of AR exposure index (legal use across regions where condors existed) and precipitation, and the probability of detecting ARs in liver. Exposure to ARs may complicate recovery efforts of condor populations within their current range and in the soon to be established northern California experimental population. Continued monitoring of AR exposure using plasma blood clotting assays and residue analysis would allow for an improved understanding of their hazard to condors, particularly if paired with recent movement data that could elucidate exposure sources on the landscape occupied by this endangered species.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Collateral damage: Anticoagulant rodenticides pose threats to California condors
DOI 10.1016/j.envpol.2022.119925
Authors Garth Herring, Collin Eagles-Smith, Rachel Wolstenholme, Alacia Welch, Chris West, Barnett A. Rattner
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Pollution
Index ID 70235898
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center