Use of blood clotting assays to assess potential anticoagulant rodenticide exposure and effects in free-ranging birds of prey

Science of the Total Environment
By: , and 



Non-target wildlife, particularly birds of prey, are widely exposed to and acutely poisoned by anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs). An unresolved issue surrounding such exposure, however, is the potential for sublethal effects. In particular, the consequences of AR exposure and resulting coagulopathy on health and survival of unintentionally exposed animals, which often encounter a multitude of anthropogenic stressors, are understudied. In a wildlife rehabilitation setting, AR intoxication may be masked by more obvious injuries related to collision with vehicles or electrocution, thereby obfuscating proximate from ultimate cause of mortality. An assessment of coagulation function of admitted wildlife may provide a means of identifying animals exhibiting sublethal coagulopathy, and ultimately ensuring provision of appropriate and swift treatment. In conjunction with routine diagnostics for injury and disease, we performed two blood clotting assays (prothrombin time, Russell's viper venom time) affected by vitamin K-dependent coagulopathy of samples from six species of live raptors admitted to a rehabilitation facility. We also measured clotting time in pre-fledgling barn owl chicks (Tyto furcata) from 10 nest sites in Lower Mainland Canada. Prolonged clotting time or failure to form a clot altogether was observed in 23.0% of 61 sampled raptors admitted to the rehabilitation facility. This is a biologically significant proportion of individuals given the fortuitous and likely biased nature by which raptors are found and admitted to rehabilitation facilities. In contrast, there was little evidence of coagulopathy in 19 pre-fledgling barn owl chicks. The utility of avian coagulation tests for diagnosing AR exposure is promising, yet there remains a need to establish species specific reference values and standardize assay methodologies among testing facilities.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Use of blood clotting assays to assess potential anticoagulant rodenticide exposure and effects in free-ranging birds of prey
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.11.485
Volume 657
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 12 p.
First page 1205
Last page 1216
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