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New poison will be used to kill rats in Hazelwood

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 11:12 p.m.

County officials plan to try a new poison on “literally thousands” of rats breeding inside a newly sold Hazelwood recycling center because a family of five bald eagles brought at least three rat carcasses into their nest.

Many rat poisons can kill raptors if the birds eat prey that consumes pesticides, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The eagles hunt roadkill and other dead or dying animals. Their nest in Hays is less than a mile from the recycling center.

With complaints from the state Game Commission and bald eagle watchers about poison usage near the nest, the Allegheny County Health Department will need to first approve a “safe” extermination plan, said spokesman Guillermo Cole.

GGMJS LLC, which bought the bankrupt recycling center, will need to produce an extermination plan that is effective, environmentally safe and not harmful to humans and animals, Cole said.

It cannot begin cleanup of the site until the county approves the extermination plan.

Jim Thompson, deputy director for environmental health, told Health Department board members that full-scale extermination will start within five days after the sale closes this week or next.

The county in March tried an off-the-shelf poison bait that coagulates vermin blood, Thompson said. The Game Commission condemned the product as potentially harmful to the adult birds and three eaglets.

“We're going to try a poison that the eagles aren't as susceptible to,” he said, “but rat-killing is never pleasant.”

The new poison extracts calcium from the bones of pests and deposits it into their organs, creating something like a full-body kidney stone, Thompson said. The rats die of organ failure.

Thompson said the poison won't affect birds because their hollow, flight-fashioned bones don't store calcium the same way.

Megan Harris is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-388-5815 or mharris@tribweb.com.

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