Allegheny County health officials plan to use a poison on the thousands of rats around the former Hazelwood recycling plant that would create less of a risk for an eagle family nesting across the river in Hayes.
Jim Thompson, county deputy director for environmental health, said the type of poison extracts calcium from the bones of the vermin and transmits it to the soft tissue, causing organ failure in the rats.
The method is more sensitive to raptors because their bones, which are hollow and designed for flight, don't store calcium the same way, and it's "much more difficult" for them to get enough for a lethal dose, he said.
"The risk is minimal even with the other class of poison. We're just taking the very extra step because ... [the eagles] are just across the river," he said.
Regional Pennsylvania Game Commission officials and watchers of the webcam aimed at the eagles’ nest have expressed concerns that the adult eagles might scavenge the dead rats and take them back to the nest to feed their young. The other poison bait is an anticoagulant and has a higher risk of secondary poisoning, Mr. Thompson said.
GGMJS Property LLC, a Peters holding company, is expected to close on the sale of the closed Pittsburgh Recycling Center's equipment within the next five to seven days. The extermination will begin within five days of closing.
The health department also plans to partner with the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania to watch the area around the recycling plant during the day, when the eagles feed. If monitors spot the birds, they might make loud noises or use other diversionary tactics to scare them away.