PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Stanley Benovitch’s dog Trixie likes to catch rats.
“I think she killed three in the last month and a half,” he says.
But Trixie’s only making a small dent in the rat infestation that spreading from the bankrupt and abandoned recycling plant across the railroad tracks in Hazelwood.
“At night they’ve been wandering the neighborhood,” Benovitch said. “I come out 11 o’clock at night and I see them running up American Street up to the avenue.”
The obvious answer is rat poison, but because the Hays’ eagles prey upon the rats and feed them to their young, the potential use of poison has horrified eagle watchers.
“If the rats are poisoned, they’re going to ingest that poison,” said Annette Devinney, an eagle watcher. “It could easily kill the eagles and the eaglets.”
In the middle is City Councilman Corey O’Connor who is trying to craft a solution.
“We’re trying to please both parties,” he said. “One, get them out of the neighborhood; but two, do it in a way that won’t harm the bald eagles.”
After a week of talks and research, the Allegheny County Health Department thinks they’ve found the answer in a rat pesticide that draws calcium from the bones of rats and kills them.
Since eagles have a different bone composition, the product is much less harmful to the birds.
“As a result, it’s much less likely that they’ll receive a lethal dose if they eat a rat that’s been poison,” said Jim Thompson, of the Allegheny County Health Department.
The recycling plant is emerging from bankruptcy and has a new owner. The county will ask them to use this new pesticide and provide noise deterrents to the eagles while baiting the site.
The bird watchers like what they hear.
“That’s what I want to see happen,” said Devinney. “I want to see the rats gone and I want to keep our eagles safe. They mean a lot to people.”