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Endangered Australian top predator is frequently exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides

May 10, 2021

Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) used to control mammalian pest populations cause secondary exposure of predatory species throughout much of the world. It is important to understand the drivers of non-target AR exposure patterns as context for assessing long-term effects and developing effective mitigation for these toxicants. In Australia, however, little is known about exposure and effects of ARs on predators. We detected AR residues in 74% of 50 opportunistically collected carcasses of the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle (Aquila audax fleayi), an endangered apex predator. In 22% of birds tested, or 31% of those exposed, liver concentrations of second generation ARs (SGARs) were >0.1 mg/kg ww. Eagles were exposed to flocoumafen, a toxicant only available from agricultural suppliers, at an exceptionally high rate (40% of birds tested). Liver SGAR concentrations were positively associated with the proportion of agricultural habitat and human population density in the area around where each eagle died. The high exposure rate in a species not known to regularly prey upon synanthropic rodents supports the hypothesis that apex predators are vulnerable to SGARs. Our results indicate that AR exposure constitutes a previously unrecognized threat to Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagles and highlight the importance of efforts to address non-target AR exposure in Australia.

Publication Year 2021
Title Endangered Australian top predator is frequently exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.147673
Authors James M. Pay, Todd E. Katzner, Clare E. Hawkins, Leon A. Barmuta, William E. Brown, Amelia J. Koch, Nick J. Mooney, Elissa Z. Cameron
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70222379
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center