Behaviour, coagulopathy and pathology of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) poisoned with brodifacoum

Brodifacoum is a second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide used widely for controlling brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in New Zealand. We determined its toxic effects on possums to make inferences about the welfare of brodifacoum-poisoned possums. Caged possums were fed a lethal dose of brodifacoum in cereal baits then either bled and killed 4, 8, 12, 16 or 20 days later to establish the effects on blood-clotting, or observed for behavioural changes until death. Blood-clotting time was prolonged 8 days after possums first began ingesting brodifacoum and time to death was 20.7 ± 1.7 days (mean ± s.e.m.). Clinical signs of poisoning, including changed appearance, pale noses and external bleeding, appeared from 14 days after initial poisoning (7 days before death). Possums gradually became inactive and lethargic, typically crouching and lying in abnormal postures for 6 days before death. Feed intake reduced concurrently, resulting in significant loss of body weight of 5.9 ± 2.1%. All possums had widespread, usually severe, haemorrhaging. Internal haemorrhages first appeared in all possums 8 days after initial ingestion. These haemorrhages, and consequent blood loss, may cause distress, pain, weakness or sickness, and this is supported by evidence from humans and other animals. Reduced feed intake, inactivity, lethargy and the display of abnormal postures suggest that possums do experience distress for at least 6 days before death.

Author Littin, K. E., O'Connor, C. E., Gregory, N. G., Mellor, D. J. and Eason, C. T.
Year 2002
Secondary title Wildlife Research
Volume 29
Number 3
Pages 259-267
Control method Poison / Toxin
Region NZ