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Research fund created in memory of hawk found poisoned in Cambridge

A red-tailed hawk on the roof of 185 Fresh Pond Parkway in 2010.

Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff

A red-tailed hawk on the roof of 185 Fresh Pond Parkway in 2010.

Ruby, a red-tailed hawk found dead under her nest near Fresh Pond Mall in Cambridge in April, is being commemorated by the Ruby Memorial Research Fund at the Tufts Wildlife Clinic in North Grafton.

A love affair between bird-watchers and Ruby and her mate, Buzz, ended with the death of the red-tailed hawk whose remains were discovered by Cambridge resident Susan Moses.Veterinarians quickly linked Ruby’s death to rat poison, which was later confirmed by a toxicology screen in June.

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The screen found three second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) in Ruby’s system — substances commonly used as rat poison that have recently undergone a new wave of scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s pretty common that people aren’t aware that the poison in and around their homes is making its way into the food chain,” said Dr. Maureen Murray, a wildlife veterinarian and professor at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. “That’s one of the insidious things about these [poisons] . . . they do have the ability to cause secondary poisoning.”

In an effort to prevent similar fates falling upon Ruby’s fellow raptors and other wildlife, Moses and Tufts Wildlife Clinic have established the Ruby Memorial Research Fund.

The goal is to fund research by Murray into the health impacts of rodenticides on birds of prey. The fund has already raised $2,000 toward its initial goal of $10,000, but Murray said there is no limit to the amount of money the fund could put toward her research.

Murray has been studying rodenticide poisoning in birds of prey since 2006. In a study she published in 2011, Murray found that 86 percent of 161 birds examined over five years at Tufts tested positive for rodenticide residues.

The EPA recently passed new regulations that will require all commercial manufacturers of SGAR poisons to cease distributing to the general public by early 2015, but will still be allowed to be used by professional exterminators, Murray said.

Moses, the Cambridge resident who helped create the fund, said she hopes fund-sponsored research leads to policy changes that further protect birds of prey from SGARs and rodenticides.

To donate to the Ruby Memorial Research Fund, donors can visit: https://tuftsgiving.org.

Kiera Blessing can be reached at kiera.blessing@globe.com.
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