Friday, July 08, 2016

DN2 Autopsy Report

We received a final autopsy report on DN2. The eaglet died as a result of Methomyl toxicity, although caffeine was also present. An analysis of DN2’s liver ruled out lead and mercury as the cause of death. It did not include information on the sex of the eaglet.

What is Methomyl?
Methomyl is a broad spectrum insecticide introduced in 1966 to kill a variety of insect pests. It is registered for commercial/professional use on sites including field, vegetable, and orchard crops; sod farms; livestock quarters; commercial premises; and refuse containers. It is toxic enough that products containing more than 1% Methomyl are not available for homeowner or non-professional application.

How were DN2 and Mom North poisoned?
While we don’t know for sure, Methomyl is sometimes used off-label to kill wildlife species that become problematic. 1% Methomyl products including Golden Malrin, Lurectron Scatterbait, and Stimukil are placed in sweet solutions, including caffeinated colas, to poison animals like raccoon that some consider pests and can cause damage to buildings and farm animals. Given the presence of both Methomyl and caffeine, it seems likely that Mom North found a Methomyl-poisoned dying or dead mammal and brought it to the nest to eat. It wouldn’t have taken much to kill DN2 or Mom North, since Methomyl is highly toxic.  Based on what we observed, Mom North was able to metabolize and recover from what she ate, but DN2 was not. While it is possible that the poisoning was the unintended consequence of a legal use of Methomyl, the caffeine suggests it was not.

For more about the problems of baiting wildlife with Methomyl, follow this link:

Is this legal?
It is not. While Methomyl and many other pesticides and insecticides are legal when used in a manner consistent with labeling, it is illegal to go off-label and use them in a manner for which they are not intended. Fly bait is legal when used according to direction and illegal used in any other way. There may be state and federal penalties for people caught misusing it, depending on state and federal law, and what species are killed.

What are you going to do about it?
We have already reported the incident to the Iowa State DNR and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and will report it to the EPA and the manufacturer of the most likely culprit, Golden Malrin. We will also use our RRP website, Facebook and Twitter audience to help spread the message about misuse of Methomyl and let people know that they can petition their states to reclassify Methomyl fly baits as restricted products should they choose to do so. We would love to say that this was an isolated incident, but a quick search for “golden malrin raccoon” reveals just how widespread the practice is. Google it and join the discussion!

Do you know who did it?
No. There is a lot of variability in eagle home ranges. While immediate nest defense/core territories tend to occur within 100 square meters or so of the nest, hunting territories vary considerably.  One study documented bald eagle summer home ranges that varied from 3 square miles to 18 square miles depending on age, nesting status, and available resources. But other studies have found even wider ranges in nesting bald eagles, including 37 square miles for a pair in Louisiana. The landowners in the immediate vicinity of the nest have expressed their commitment to conservation.  With bald eagles searching and scavenging for food over a large area, there is no way to know exactly where it cam from. We are not an enforcement agency, but we have reported what we know to enforcement agencies.

We don’t believe that anyone meant DN2 or Mom North any harm. But people need to know that off-label poisoning kills unintended targets and can have serious legal consequences. We don’t believe that anyone meant DN2 or Mom North any harm. But people need to know that off-label poisoning kills unintended targets and can have serious legal consequences. This may also be a good day to check garages, basements, and storage sheds to see what noxious and toxic herbicides, rodenticides, and insecticides are on hand that have tragic consequences for wildlife, pets, and humans. Want something to replace those highly toxic chemicals? Check out the Bio-Integral Resource Center ( and their list of least-toxic pest control products: Even if you can't go completely toxin-free, you can reduce harmful consequences by using products correctly and choosing the least toxic option. You can help by sharing and spreading the word to prevent the unintentional killings of bald eagles and other animals.

Note that Methomyl is toxic enough that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Methomyl manufacturers have agreed to limit use on certain crops to reduce risks to drinking water: EPA and manufacturers have also reached an agreement to stop making and selling some fly bait products and to add information to the label that clarifies the approved uses. EPA believes that these changes will reduce the illegal use of methomyl fly bait products which can kill wildlife, an issue that was reported to EPA by a number of states.

Are you an academic studying this issue? Please contact us by emailing