Brodifacoum is a second-generation anticoagulant used for rodent control in New Zealand. Concerns about the poisoning of non-target species have resulted in restrictions being imposed on the mainland. It is, however, still commonly employed on offshore islands. Previous research investigating the poisoning risks of brodifacoum has generally focused on birds eating brodifacoum bait (primary poisoning) or through depredation of live rodents or carrion containing brodifacoum residues (secondary poisoning).
Anticoagulant poisons, especially the second-generation anticoagulant brodifacoum, are used worldwide to eradicate pest mammals from high priority nature sites. However, the potency and persistence of brodifacoum may present threats to non-target species. In New Zealand, most ecosystems lack native terrestrial mammals; instead, birds, reptiles and invertebrates fulfil key ecosystem roles. Introduced mammals represent the biggest threat to persistence of native species.
Hihi (Notiomystis cincta) were reintroduced to Mokoia Island, Lake Rotorua, New Zealand, in September 1994, and two years later there was an aerial drop of brodifacoum cereal pellets aimed to eradicate mice (Mus musculus). Using Program MARK, we analyzed data from resighting surveys to assess whether hihi had lower than normal survival in the 6-week interval following the drop. The resighting data were collected on a regular basis over a 3-year period, from 1994-97, allowing us to control for yearly and seasonal variation in resighting and survival probabilities.
Several recent studies have used "roll calls"—searches for individually-marked birds—to assess impacts of aerial poison operations on non-target species. Roll calls have advantages over methods such as 5-minute bird counts, call counts, and dead body counts, but roll calls are based on the assumption that detection rates are 100%, or that detection rates are constant over time and space. They also require more than one group of birds, at a poisoned and unpoisoned site for example, for valid statistical comparisons.
In 1996 an eradication operation against two species of rats (Rattus norvegicus and R. exulans was conducted on Kapiti Island (1965 ha) and its small offshore islands. Trials with non-toxic baits had been carried out to help determine the risks to non-target species, and research was undertaken to collect baseline data for measuring the response of vegetation, invertebrates, reptiles and birds to the removal of rats.
We monitored 16 radio-tagged moreporks (Ninox novaeseelandiae) on Mokoia Island after a brodifacoum poison drop to eradicate mice (Mus musculus), normally included in the owls' diet. All 16 moreporks were alive after 13 days. One bird was found dead on day 22, and corpses of two radio-tagged birds were located on day 51. The bird found on day 22 contained 0.97 mg kg(-1) of brodifacoum in its liver. The other two carcasses were not analysed, but they probably died as a result of brodifacoum poisoning. Thus, three out of 14 birds died (21% mortality).
The presence of brodifacoum residues in possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) livers following routine possum control was investigated. Possums were poisoned in six nature reserves in the Wellington Region, New Zealand, using cereal baits containing 20 mg kg(-1) brodifacoum dispensed from bait stations. Thirty-five surviving possums, and five dead possums were sampled from the reserves following poisoning, and their livers analysed for the presence of brodifacoum. The majority (83%) of samples contained brodifacoum at concentrations ranging from 0.007 mg kg(-1) to 6.2 mg kg(-1).
Aerial poisoning using Talon(R) 7-20 baits (active ingredient 20 ppm brodifacoum) was carried out on Motuihe Island, Hauraki Gulf, during the winter of 1997. The operation aimed to eradicate Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) and house mice (iMus musculus) and to reduce rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) numbers significantly. We studied the diet of feral house cats (Felis earns) before the operation, then monitored the impact of the operation on them to determine whether secondary brodifacoum poisoning caused a reduction in their numbers.
In Britain, the use of "second-generation'' rodenticides has become widespread on agricultural premises. The high toxicity and relatively long half-lives of these compounds has raised concerns over potential secondary exposure and poisoning of non-target predators. Over the last 15 years, exposure has been extensively documented in the barn owl Tyto alba but relatively little is known about mammalian terrestrial predators.
A poison baiting operation at Trounson Kauri Park in Northland, New Zealand using first 1080 and then brodifacoum targeted possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) and rodents (Rattus rattus, Rattus norvegicus and Mus musculus). Predatory mammals were monitored by radio telemetry during the operation. All six feral cats (Felis catus), the single stoat (Mustela erminea) and the single ferret (Mustela furo) being monitored at the beginning of the operation died of secondary poisoning following the 1080 operation.