Asia Kepka of Arlington attended with a giant eagle head, she is pictured in front of Arlington Town Hall. A vigil/protest was held on Massachusetts Avenue over the death of a bald eagle called “MK”, who was apparently poisoned. / Globe photoAsia Kepka of Arlington carries an eagle head in front of Town Hall. / Globe photo

 UPDATED March 4: Two days after the beloved bald eagle “MK” died from apparently ingesting rat poison, an estimated 300 people joined a vigil Thursday evening in Arlington to urge Massachusetts lawmakers to ban second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs).

MK, who had been nesting with her mate in Arlington’s Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, was taken to the New England Wildlife Centers’ (NEWC) Cape Cod hospital on Monday, Feb. 27, after likely having eaten one to two rats that had already ingested the poison. She died the next evening in what NEWC officials called a “particularly devastating” death, reported

“We hope her case will serve as a true wakeup call for people to stop using SGARs and will ultimately lead to true systemic change,” NEWC said in a Facebook post. “It is time to restrict the use of these poisons. Rodent control does not need to come at the expense of our natural heritage and ecosystem.”

SGARs have long been an issue in Arlington and the rest of Massachusetts, causing the deaths of owls, foxes, pets and several already endangered eagles. Many in Arlington hope that the state will take action to further limit rodenticide use.

Jeff Barnd of ACMi tells the story of 'MK':


On Thursday, March 2, about 300 people rallied outside Town Hall in the cold rain, asking lawmakers to pass legislation regulating SGARs.

“After a while, if there’s no way to channel this grief, people start to feel helpless, and they’ll start to turn off of this issue … [because of feeling as though they] can’t do anything about it.” -- Laura Kiesel

Laura Kiesel, an activist science writer based in Arlington and founder of the group Save Arlington Wildlife, organized the event to provide a way for people to channel their grief into a fight for change; it began in front of the Dallin Art Museum and then moved to outside Town Hall. She had also organized a demonstration late last month at the local Whole Foods Market to protest reported SGAR usage there.

“After a while, if there’s no way to channel this grief, people start to feel helpless, and they’ll start to turn off of this issue … [because of feeling as though they] can’t do anything about it,” Kiesel told the day after the march. “We need to be able to come together and collectively share our grief and then be able to channel it into some sense of hope.

“We’re being traumatized over and over again, just bombarded with these losses,” Kiesel said. “And I knew that if we didn’t start doing something, I really worried that people were going to stop even wanting to look.”

Led by Kiesel and local state Reps. Sean Garballey and David Rogers, the group marched with posters and signs to Arlington Town Hall. Once they arrived, Kiesel and Garballey gave speeches pushing for rodenticide regulations.

Arlington has already banned the use of SGARs on town property for the most part, but some believe that the lack of similar restrictions on private property impedes the protection of wildlife.

Last year the town also passed a home-rule resolution to prohibit local business owners and private property owners, who may often be misinformed about the ultimate effect of pesticides, from using SGARs. But the resolution, which has yet to be assigned to the state Legislature’s recently created committees, would have to be voted on by the House and the Senate before the ban could take effect.

“On a town level, we’ve done all we can do,” John Leone, a candidate for Select Board who attended the vigil, told “It’s now up to the state to allow us to go further.”

Legislation refiled

Lawmakers have refiled legislation requiring pest-control companies to create a digital database of where they place SGARs, which Kiesel says would be invaluable in keeping wildlife safe. The bill also would require an annual report to be compiled containing the location, number and effectiveness of SGARs and bait boxes.

The bill, which made it unanimously through the House and Senate last year, failed to be enacted as the legislative session ended, said state Rep. James K. Hawkins, who wrote the House version of the bill. But Hawkins says the refiled bill will likely make it through the chambers “very soon.”

Hawkins told that “With usable data, we’ll be able to talk about a ban.” And, throughout the march, Kiesel and Garballey pointed to the proposed legislation as a key initial measure to protect Massachusetts wildlife.

Garballey comments

“Rodenticide is impacting eagles, owls, foxes, hawks, even family pets,” Garballey told “So the importance of this bill is that it will provide the information needed to assess usage amounts and locations, and digitize data, and, most importantly, promote awareness and education to help us respond quickly to this growing problem. … For me, it’s the first step in banning these products.”

As lawmakers work to pass the various pieces of legislation, Save Arlington Wildlife is encouraging businesses to sign a “Poison-Free Pledge,” whereby businesses promise to use alternative rat-infestation solutions.

While pest companies often encourage businesses to use rat poison, Kiesel and others point out that the use of SGAR rodenticide with bait boxes  attracts rats in order to kill them. And, once they are empy, the boxes can provide rats safety from predatory birds — thus potentially increasing the rodent population. Ingesting SGARs also slows rodents down and makes them easier to catch — so it is increasingly likely that predators will hunt and eat precisely those rodents who have already consumed the poison.

Demonstrators outside Whole Foods, Arlington, Feb. 19, 2023.'MK' receives care on the Cape before dying.

“A lot of the pest-control companies, they do misinform their clients,” Kiesel said. “They are under no legal obligation to be transparent about the impacts of these poisons on wildlife… We’re getting rid of our best natural defense when we kill off our predators with these poisons. And that’s the problem.”

Feb. 21, 2023: Demonstration at local store targets rat poison use

Read more about saving wildlife


This news summary was published Thursday, March 2, 2023, and updated the same day to provide background on SGAR rat poison. It was updated March 4, 2023, reporting the vigil and describing the potential political path to further restrictions on SGAR use.