Poisoned rodents leading to bird deaths

I found a sick red-tailed hawk March 16 below a tall eucalyptus in the Bonita Canyon reservoir area of the Irvine Ranch Water District land.

The bird was alert but unable to move, and I was able to capture it with the guidance of the Newport Beach Animal Control unit. I placed the raptor in a box in my garage and kept it warm and quiet until they picked up the hawk Saturday morning. The raptor survived the night and was taken to the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, which then stabilized the bird, treated it for poison and sent it to the South Bay Wildlife Rehab in Rancho Palos Verdes.

When I followed up with the rehab center, they said that this was the third hawk in three days to show similar symptoms and that all three had been recovered from a two-mile radius within Newport Beach.

The two other raptors, both red-shouldered hawks, were found less than 24 hours apart — one in the Eastbluff area near the Back Bay and the other above the San Joaquin reservoir in the Spyglass neighborhood. Two raptors have died and the prospects for the third are grim. These majestic birds consumed a poisoned rodent.

As a person who enjoys the outdoors, advocates to preserve the natural ecosystems that still remain in this region, and appreciates the importance and beauty of having predatory birds in our region, it is very disheartening to think that these birds died by our careless and insensitive actions controlling rodents.

These birds help us control the rodent population.

Because this is my first encounter with a dying raptor caused by eating a poisoned rodent, I decided to investigate ways we might be able to work together to reduce the rodent population without risking more raptors.

I found a study by Hungry Owl Project, a Marin County-based group that promotes the use of barn owls and other beneficial predators for natural pest control.

The study also lists the following solutions:

•Remove piles of yard debris and enclose compost piles where rats or mice could make homes.

Eliminate food sources. Don't leave pet food outside. Keep wild birdseed and other materials that rats or mice may eat, such as some organic fertilizers, in rodent-proof containers. Clean up under bird feeders and collect and remove fallen fruit or nuts from fruit trees in the yard.

Exclude rodents from your home. Rodents can squeeze through amazingly small holes — a quarter inch for mice and half an inch for rats. Go around the outside of your house looking for openings and seal them with metal, hardware cloth, mortar, concrete or Stuf-fit Copper Wool Mesh.

With conscientious methods of eliminating rodents, we can work together to help the local resident and visiting raptor population to thrive, thus enriching the reputation of our community and the growing numbers of those who pride themselves on living a balanced and sustainable life.

Editor's note: David Zeve is a Newport Beach resident.

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