Poison in Italy

In Italy, the use of poison was legal until 1977. It was mainly used for hunting purposes, to eliminate game’s predators.
Certain species of birds of prey are now extinct in Italy, or in large areas thereof, because of poisoning and shooting (for more details, see the “Species” section).
This practice is still very widespread, although complete and homogeneous data are unfortunately not available.
In the framework of the LIFE ANTIDOTO Project, the National Reference Centre for Forensic Veterinary Medicine at the Preventive Animal Healthcare Institute for Lazio and Tuscany Regions (IZSLT), together with the Gran Sasso-Laga National Park, collected and analysed available data on poisoning cases involving wild and house animals in Italy between 2005 and 2009. 4,588 poisoned animals and 2,188 poison baits had been recorded in that period, but these data are not complete, as they do not include regions, such as Abruzzo, Sicily, and Sardinia, where poisoning cases are quite frequent.
Dogs and cats are the most common poison victims among domestic mammals (2,370 and 806 cases respectively), whereas foxes and wolves hold the unenvied record among wild animals (126 and 36 cases).
As far as domestic birds are concerned, pigeons are the main victims (975); buzzards are instead the most common victims among wild birds or, at least, they are the most frequently detected (19 cases), as they sometimes come to carrion, and are fairly common.
The study made it possible to observe the time distribution of poisoning cases, and to notice two opposite extremes, with the highest rates occurring between February and March, and the lowest in October. This may be due to concomitant factors such as game restocking, grazing period, and truffle hunting.
Another significant aspect that emerged from the study is the huge disparity among data collected in different regions. This is presumably not (only) due to disparities in the frequency of poison use, but also in the awareness of this problem and consequently in case reporting.
Collected data do not mirror the actual extent of this phenomenon, because baits or carcasses are only fortuitously found and, even when that happens, they are not always reported to competent authorities.
Moreover, monitoring carnivores or carrion birds by GSM, radio or satellite tracking, or other systems, is not a widespread practice in Italy, although it could prove highly helpful in finding dead animals and consequently assess the incidence of poison in their populations.
The IZSLT study can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/laf2oo6

  • Immagine 1
  • Carcass of a red kite with wing monitoring tags, died in Umbria after ingesting a poison mixture
  • Immagine 2
  • Poisoned wolf in Abruzzo
  • Immagine 3
  • Poisoned griffon vulture in Abruzzo
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