In Ogunquit, Maine, a dead seagull has led to the discovery of rat poison on the beach.
Interim Town Manager Mark O'Brien says someone in the "previous administration" authorized the use of rat poison pellets among the rocks to address an increase in rat complaints.
"It was done improperly," he said.
O'Brien said the town was supposed to have hired someone with a license to handle the rat poison, but failed to do so. Additionally, the town failed to place the pellets inside a protective box to keep humans and other animals from being harmed.
When a dead seagull was found on the beach, O'Brien said he became aware of the possibility of rat poisoning. He said an Ogunquit Police officer accidentally touched a pellet and had to be taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Multiple state and federal agencies are investigating.
"I am not aware of who actually authorized it, and it is part of the investigation," said O'Brien, who stepped into the role after the former town manager, Tom Fortier, was charged with theft in an unrelated incident.
The latest news from around the state
A part of the popular beach is now taped off, and beach goers want to know why they weren't told about the risks.
"At a minimum, I think there should be some signage to give some indication there's something potentially dangerous in the area," said Alan Shepard, who was visiting the beach with family Tuesday.
O'Brien said his staff is working to remove all of the pellets placed near the rocks, and did not have enough time to create signage.
He said that the caution tape and stakes around the affected area will help to keep people out, and that town employees working near the beach are instructed to notify visitors about the potential risks.
The Maine Warden Service is also monitoring the situation, concerned that the rat poison could impact hawks migrating in the area.
An official with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said this could be a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and lead to a fine for the town.