Prevalence of anticoagulant rodenticide exposure in red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) and utility of clotting time assays to detect coagulopathy

Ecotoxicology. 2022 May 27. doi: 10.1007/s10646-022-02558-y. Online ahead of print.


Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) continue to be used across the United States as a method for controlling pest rodent species. As a consequence, wild birds of prey are exposed to these toxicants by eating poisoned prey items. ARs prevent the hepatic recycling of vitamin K and thereby impede the post-translational processing of coagulation factors II, VII, IX, and X that are required for procoagulant complex assembly. Through this mechanism of action, ARs cause hemorrhage and death in their target species. Various studies have documented the persistence of these contaminants in birds of prey but few have attempted to use affordable and accessible diagnostic tests to diagnose coagulopathy in free-ranging birds of prey. In our study free-ranging red-tailed hawks were found to be exposed to difethialone and brodifacoum. Eleven of sixteen (68%) livers tested for AR exposure had detectable residues. Difethialone was found in 1/16 (6%), and brodifacoum was detected in 10/16 (62%) liver samples that were tested for rodenticide residues. Difethialone was found at a concentration of 0.18 ug/g wet weight and brodifacoum concentrations ranged from 0.003-0.234 ug/g wet weight. Two out of 34 (6%) RTHA assessed for blood rodenticide had brodifacoum in serum with measured concentrations of 0.003 and 0.006 ug/g. The range of clotting times in the prothrombin time (PT) and Russell's viper venom time assays for control RTHA were 16.7 to 39.7 s and 11.5 to 91.8 s, respectively. One study bird was diagnosed with clinical AR intoxication with a brodifacoum levels in blood of 0.006 and 0.234 ug/g wet weight in blood and liver respectively, a packed cell volume (PCV) of 19%, and PT and RVVT times of >180 s. No correlation was found between PT and RVVT in the control or free-range RTHA, and there was no relationship found between the presence of liver anticoagulant residues and clotting times in the PT and RVVT.

Keywords: Anticoagulant rodenticides; Buteo jamaicensis; Coagulation; Prothrombin; Red-tailed hawks; Russell’s viper venom.