Poisoning of San Francisco’s parrots indicates reckless use of bromethalin affecting cats and other animals

This story is about parrots in San Francisco being poisoned over very many years. However, the story is much wider than that because researchers don’t know where or how the parrots are ingesting bromethalin, a rat poison, and therefore its presence endangers other animals including, notably, feral, stray and outside domestic cats.

Cat and parrots of Telegraph Hill, San Francisco
Cat and parrots of Telegraph Hill, San Francisco. Photo of cat: Louisa Pickering. Parrots: Wikipedia.
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Bromethalin is a commonly used rodenticide in the United States. Since 1999 the parrots of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco (a famous urban animal) have been contracting a mysterious illness with neurological symptoms. The illness leads to ataxia (uncoordinated movements) and is sometimes fatal. Those birds that recover under care do so without fully recovering. There is no cure.

It is estimated that there are about 300 of these parrots in urban San Francisco. It took researchers and the strong commitment of a bird rescue organisation, Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue, to discover the cause of the illness. In fact, as I understand it, the investigation took about 10 years. This is probably in part because there is no test to detect bromethalin poisoning.

It’s a poison which was promoted by a 2008 EPA directive with the intention of making a rodenticide safer in the environment. It had the opposite effect. The Pet Poison Helpline reported a 65% increase in bromethalin toxicosis cases between 2011 and 2014.

Cats are known to be particularly susceptible to bromethalin poisoning. Comment: I suspect that cats which have gone missing or found to be mysteriously ill may have been poisoned by this chemical in the environment.

The source of the bromethalin in the environment remains a mystery. It could be anywhere. It might be an individual who wants to get rid of the parrots or it might be a government agency who is putting the poison down although in that instance I would have thought the authorities would be well informed about it.

Parrots can be noisy and I wonder whether there is an individual out there who has taken it upon himself to take direct action against parrots and is thereby jeopardising the health and welfare of outside cats.

A follow-up study has been mooted to find out where and how the birds are being poisoned. I would suggest that there should be also a study as to whether cats and other animals are being poisoned in the same way by the same substance.

P.S. Bromethalin is a neurotoxic rodenticide that damages the central nervous system (Wikipedia). Source of story: forbes.com.

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