Originally printed in The Ct Insider

A bald eagle that was initially thought to have injured its wings died Monday night from a poison used on rats and mice that also is killing the wild creatures that eat the rodents, according to a raptor rehabilitator who was caring for the ailing eagle.

“We lost the national symbol of freedom to rodenticide right here in Connecticut,” said Christine Cummings, president of A Place Called Hope in Killingworth. “Tragic news and my heart is just broken, again.”

Cummings and other wildlife advocates have been pressing state lawmakers to ban the sale and use of second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs), but she said a bill before the General Assembly has been so watered down it would be pointless to pass in its latest form. The bill would restrict use of the pesticides to professional exterminators, but Cummings said they are now the primary users of the product. Cummings said she hopes for a stronger bill before the session ends.

State Sen. Christine Cohen, a Democrat who introduced the bill, said SGARs “have a devastating and irreversible effect on our wildlife, and there are safer alternatives to pest management available.

“While I am proud that this legislation is getting a much deserved conversation, I will continue to work with my colleagues in Hartford, animal rights advocates and environmentalists to protect Connecticut’s delicate ecosystem,” Cohen said.

More than 150 people testified before the legislature’s environment committee in favor of banning SGARs, with some exceptions to protect public health, Nicole Rivard, spokesperson for the international wildlife advocacy group, Friends of Animals, told the committee about the heartbreak of seeing poisoned birds and mammals twitching and dying in agony.

“If owls, hawks, eagles, foxes, bobcats and other wildlife could be here,” Rivard told the panel, “they’d say ‘Stop poisoning our food with second-generation anticoagulant poisons. We’ll control the rodents.’”